A life sentence is a strong strong conviction and should be reserved for the absolute worst of offenses. However due to insane loop holes and stipulations in different states, a handful of people end up getting put away in jail for things they did not commit and for obscene amounts of time. A great chunk of these people tend to be people of color, who suffer most from the systematic oppression thats built into the fabric of the American Justice system.
Ricky Jackson, 59, spent 39 years in an Ohio prison for a crime he did not commit. Jackson’s is the longest prison term for an exonerated defendant in United States history, and a terrifying example of how the criminal justice system can wrong the innocent. Worst still, he initially suppose to receive the death penalty. He and the two other people wrongfully accused with him were sentenced in 1977. Jackson spent a year on death row before a technically reduced his sentence to life. Eventually the faulty confession used to convict them was thrown out and they were freed.
“It was overwhelming, being out after all that time,” Jackson says. “I just did my best to stay grounded. To get the little things done: get a driver’s license, find an apartment.” Jackson eventually received a settlement from the state, nearly $1 million dollars.
For a Mississippi man this is unfortunately not the case. Allen Russell, 38, will spend the rest of his life behind bars thanks to a ‘habitual offender’ law in the state. Russell was arrested in 2017 by Hattiesburg police officers. Authorities took “five bags of a green leafy substance that appeared to be marijuana,” court filings said. In total, it was nearly 44 grams of cannabis seized from Russell’s apartment. In 2004, Russell pleaded guilty to 2 separate charges of burglary of a dwelling. Burglary constitutes a violent offense in Mississippi.
“Upon review of the case before us, and in accordance with precedent, we find that Russell’s sentencing as a habitual offender was not grossly disproportionate as he claims and was clearly within the prescribed statutory limits,” appeals judges wrote in their decision. “Because Russell has failed to prove the threshold requirement of gross disproportionality, and because his habitual- offender sentence fell within the statutory guidelines, we conclude that his sentence constituted “a constitutionally permissible punishment for his most recent crime.”