Willie Simmons

Repeal the Habitual Felony Offender Act

Alabama's "three strikes" law, the Habitual Felony Offender Act (HFOA) affects over 6,000 people currently serving enhanced prison sentences based on prior offenses.

Close to 500 people, like Willie Simmons, were sentenced to die in prison for non-homicide crimes, many committed decades ago and involved no physical injury. Mr. Simmons has served 37 years in prison for a robbery of $9 he committed when he was 25 and addicted to drugs.

A judge sentenced Mr. Simmons to a mandatory life without parole sentence under HFOA in 1982 because Mr. Simmons had three prior convictions for property crimes.

Today, Willie Simmons is 62, sober and working on his GED, yet without a change to the law, he will be trapped in prison for the rest of his natural life. If he was convicted today, he would receive a 20-year maximum sentence under the current sentencing guidelines.

30 percent of the HFOA population in Alabama prisons is over the age of 50. As people age out of criminal behavior, the cost to keep them incarcerated doubles. 96 people, including Mr. Simmons, have served over 30 years and have no hope for release. This law has led to widespread geographic and racial disparities. Three out of four people sentenced to life without parole under HFOA are Black.

Alabama's overcrowded, understaffed, and violent prisons were declared unconstitutional by the United States Department of Justice in 2019. HFOA is a major contributor to this crisis. It creates a waste of scarce resources with no public safety benefit and should be repealed or reformed. The law devalues lives by disregarding an individual's capacity to grow and change. The people sentenced under this law deserve the chance to return to their families and communities.

Let's raise our voices and ask Alabama lawmakers to repeal the habitual offender law, which is nothing more than an unjust and expensive failure.

To the Alabama Legislature:
I support ending the Habitual Felony Offender Act.

The law creates widespread sentencing disparity and unjustly incarcerates too many people for far too long. Overly punitive policies like the habitual offender law led to Alabama's horrendously overcrowded prisons.