LWOP: The Ultimate Power Trip

Please join me in a fictitious tale based on unfortunate real life events. Times have always been hard for Marquan, a Shreveport native, for as far back as he could remember. He never had money for lunch let alone fifty cents for fundraising popcorn sold after school. He was very observant about the fact that his red shirts weren’t as bright as many of his elementary peers’ red shirts when they wore them. He noticed how white the shoe strings were on their brand new shoes and he resented the fact that he had never been given shoes fresh out of a box before. Marquan’s observant eye continued to admire the fortunes of other students all the way up to high school. 


While Marquan had many friends at school, he often missed days because he had grown tired of being one of the less fortunate kids in attendance. He didn’t like how none of the girls he noticed didn’t notice him. He was no good at sports, he didn’t tell jokes, and honestly didn’t like drawing too much attention to himself because he was insecure about his appearance. 


One day Marquan decided to go shopping. He didn’t have any money but decided to go anyway. The moment he walked into Macy’s he saw the most amazing jacket! To him it was like fate, it was the first thing he had laid his eyes on and it happened to be his style. As he approached the garment, for just a second, Marquan had forgotten he didn’t have any money. Once he looked at the price tag all of his excitement seeped out of his body as he exhaled. He thought to himself, “$120.00!” Next, he remembered how tired he was of not having nice things and how he would feel wearing it. As you may have already guessed, Marquan decided he would take that jacket. He looked around, it didn’t appear anyone was watching, and in 1 swift motion he had removed it from the hanger and tucked it underneath his shirt. He looked around again, saw no one, and headed for the exit. 


The young man was caught and sent to jail where he waited to see the judge. He thought about the couple of times he had gotten caught stealing prior and figured this time would be like the others, only this time Marquan had turned 18 two weeks prior. Unimaginably, the judge sentenced him to life in prison for shoplifting, as he despised thieves and figured this young man would never learn his lesson. At such a young age, Marquans’ life was over. He would be sent to Angola Prison where he would remain indefinitely.


Did you know that currently, there are nine states in the US with 3,278 prisoners collectively, who are serving life without parole (LWOP) sentences for non-violent crimes? Those states where such adverse sentencing is allowed are Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Illinois, and Georgia. Astonishingly, 65% of LWOP prisoners are African American and the majority  are being held in federal prisons. In addition to shoplifting, some were convicted of drug offenses, property damage, siphoning fuel,  and attempting to cash a stolen check, just to list a few. So many lives and families have been ruined because of harsh and/or mandatory sentencing. It should be deemed unjust to mandate punishment with no chance to actually rehabilitate especially for non-violent offenders. 


It costs taxpayers an additional 1.8 billion dollars to house offenders for life. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “suitable alternatives are readily at hand, including shorter prison terms and the provision of drug treatment and mental health services. It is imperative to end the imposition of mandatory life without parole for non-violent offenders. Requiring re-sentencing hearings for all those already digging holes in this judicial cemetery would be the shooting star for those who have already given up. For additional statistics, advocacy, and direct services information please view the links below.



Written by: Sharia Legette

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