Three Strikes Law led to 20 years in prison for stealing $14

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Dawud Coulson was sentenced to two decades behind bars for stealing $14. A judge recently released him. Photo by Shutterstock.

California’s Three Strikes Law is still in effect. But since 2012, “non-serious” and “non-violent” felonies have stopped counting as third strikes, and thousands of people have been released. Dawud Coulson finally got out after 20 years.

Back in 2002, Coulson was sentenced to life in prison with a chance for parole after 35 years. His crime: walking into an open garage and stealing $14 in change. He was found guilty of robbery and burglary, which amounted to his third and fourth strikes. He remained behind bars because his crimes were categorized as low-level violent offenses, even though they involved no physical harm.

A judge recently released Coulson, telling him he was “shocked and angry at how [Coulson was] treated by the system.” But many others in similar situations to Coulson remain locked up.