NEW ORLEANS – ACLU of Louisiana issued the following statement regarding Fair Wayne Bryant, a Black man sentenced to life in prison for stealing a pair of hedge clippers, being granted parole. 

“While nothing can make up for the years Mr. Bryant lost to this extreme and unjust sentence, today's decision by the parole board is a long-overdue victory for Mr. Bryant, his family, and the cause of equal justice for all,” said Alanah Odoms, ACLU of Louisiana executive director. “Now it is imperative that the Legislature repeal the habitual offender law that allows for these unfair sentences, and for district attorneys across the state to immediately stop seeking extreme penalties for minor offenses.”

Under Louisiana’s Habitual Offender Statute, a person who is convicted of more than one felony crime faces longer and longer sentences for each subsequent conviction. These laws were enacted over the last several decades as part of a “tough on crime” approach to sentencing that focused only on punishment and not on redemption or rehabilitation. 

Importantly, even without legislative action to repeal the statute, district attorneys can stop seeking enhanced penalties under the law.

The majority (64 percent) of people serving time in Louisiana prisons under the Habitual Offender Statute are there for nonviolent crimes. Black people represent the large majority of those convicted as habitual offenders (79 percent).