A 34-year-old man is now facing the prospect of life in prison after allegedly being caught stuffing $31 of chocolate bars into his pockets in a US convenience store.
New Orleans resident Jacobia Grimes faces the life sentence after being charged under the Louisiana state’s habitual-offender law, which considers past offences.
Grimes is a “quad” offender under the habitual-offender law following five previous convictions.
According to his lawyer, those five previous convictions totalled less than $500 for incidents at Rite-Aid, Sav-A-Center, Blockbuster Video and Rouses stores.
“I just think it points to the absurdity of the multiple billing statute. They’re spending their time to lock someone up for years over $31 worth of candy. It’s ridiculous,” attorney Miles Swanson said.
In the most recent of the convictions, Swanson said Grimes accepted a four-year jail sentence as a double offender after being caught stealing a Dollar General store of a pair of socks and trousers.
Swanson believes Grimes could have been charged with a state misdemeanor under a different statute, but now could potentially add to the nine years he has already spent in prison.
“It’s unconscionably excessive to threaten someone with 20 years to life for candy,” said Grimes’s other attorney Michael Kennedy.
“[But] the District Attorney is following the law as it's written. The DA certainly had a choice. I may not agree with the choice they made, but they didn't do anything improper."
Louisiana has been titled the ‘world’s prison capital’ in an expose that found the US state imprisons more citizens than any other state and holds an incarceration state “nearly five times Iran’s, 13 times China’s and 20 times Germany’s.”
"The hidden engine behind the state's well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash," the Times-Picayune reported in 2012.
“A majority of Louisiana inmates are housed in for-profit facilities, which must be supplied with a constant influx of human beings or a $182 million industry will go bankrupt.”
Judge Franz Zibilich, who is overseeing the case, considered how effective and relevant the ‘multiple bill’ approach remains.
“Isn’t this a little over the top?” he said.
“It’s not even funny… twenty years to life for a Snickers bar, or two or three or four.”