You never forget the day you’re sentenced. 
I was riding my bike to the grocery store when the police stopped me and found a small bag of marijuana on the ground. It was a minor offense, the equivalent of about two joints, so I thought that I would post bond, handle the case with an attorney and avoid any serious jail time.
I never imagined it would be years before I’d be free again. 
Because I was prosecuted as a so-called “habitual offender,” I was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years in prison. It was a devastating blow. I remember leaving the courthouse, chained up in the back of a hot van – worried that my kids would forget about me, and feeling like my life was over. 
Seven years later I was finally reunited with my family, thanks to an outpouring of support and publicity about my case. But many more people are still serving extreme sentences for minor offenses like drug possession or theft. In fact, roughly three quarters of people convicted under the Habitual Offender Statute are like me: their primary offense involved drugs or property – not violence. 
That’s why I’m proud to be working alongside Louisianans for Prison Alternatives in urging the Louisiana Legislature to pass House Bill 518, which would remove certain first-time, nonviolent offenses from being considered under the Habitual Offender Statute.
Read the full text of Bernard Noble's column in The Advocate.