This Man From Alabama Is In Prison For Life For Stealing $9 In 1982

Escambia County, AL — Willie Simmons, a 62-year old Black man from Alabama, has been behind bars for the last 38 years for steal­ing $9. He was con­vict­ed of 1st-degree rob­bery and was sen­tenced to life with­out parole in 1982 due to Alabama’s Habitual Offender law. He already had 3 pri­or con­vic­tions.

Beth Shelburne, a reporter from WBRC, shared Simmons’ ordeals in a thread on Twitter after hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with him.

Shelburne said Simmons, an Army vet­er­an who became addict­ed to drugs while assigned over­seas, was 25-years old when the state “said he should die in prison.” Since 2005, he hasn’t had a vis­i­tor after his sis­ter passed away.

Now at the age of 62, he has been incar­cer­at­ed in Holman Correctional Facility in Escambia County, Alabama which is con­sid­ered one of the “most vio­lent pris­ons in the coun­try.” Despite that, he is study­ing for his GED, try­ing to “stay away from the wild bunch.”

Simmons is not deny­ing the crime he com­mit­ted that land­ed him in prison for life. He admit­ted he was “high on drugs” when he wres­tled a man to the ground and stole his wal­let that con­tained $9, as he said he was “try­ing to get a quick fix.”

Simmons recalled his tri­al which last­ed about 25 min­utes. He said his appoint­ed attor­ney didn’t call on any wit­ness and the pros­e­cu­tors didn’t offer a plea deal although his pri­or offens­es were non-vio­lent. “They kept say­ing we’ll do our best to keep you off the streets for good,” he said.

Over the years, he has filed for sev­er­al appeals even with­out an attor­ney and those were all denied. He said, “In a place like this, it can feel like you’re stand­ing all alone. I ain’t got nobody on the out­side to call and talk to. Sometimes I feel like I’m lost in out­er space.”

Lawmakers in 2014 have since removed the last avenue of appeal for those serv­ing life with­out parole under the habit­u­al offend­er law like Simmons. However, Simmons is hop­ing his cru­el sen­tence could be recon­sid­ered. “Yes, I’ve been hop­ing and pray­ing on it,” he said. “I ain’t giv­ing up.”

Moreover, Simmons still dreams some­day he will be free and live a nor­mal life. “My hope is to get out of here, set­tle down with a woman and do God’s will,” he said. “I’d like to tell peo­ple about how bad drugs are.