BESSEMER, Ala. (WIAT) – Alvin Kennard was 22 years old when he was sent to prison for the last time.
On January 24, 1983, Kennard robbed the former Highlands Bakery in Bessemer, where he wielded a knife and stealing a little more than $50.75 from the business. A couple of years before, he had been convicted of two counts of burglary and one count of grand larceny, but had been given a three-year suspended sentence and put on probation.
With the first-degree robbery conviction, in addition to Alabama’s Habitual Offender Act, Kennard was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. For 36 years, he remained at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer.
On Wednesday, Circuit Judge David Carpenter resentenced Kennard to time served and will be released from prison.
Kennard, 58, was present at the hearing with his attorney Carla Crowder, executive director of the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. During the hearing, Crowder argued that under Alabama’s current sentencing guidelines, the maximum sentence he would receive would be about 20 years, so he would be eligible between 10 and 15 years.
Under such guidelines, Kennard would have been first eligible for parole in 1999.
“Even if under today’s Habitual Offender Act if that was invoked in this case, he would be eligible for a sentence up to life,” Crowder said.
Crowder said that today, Kennard resides in the honor dormitory at Donaldson and has not had a serious disciplinary action in over 11 years. Crowder pointed out 14 friends and family members that were present in the courtroom in support of Kennard.
“We have no doubt that he would do well on the outside,” she said. “When we spoke this morning, he brought up that he just wants to work. I think that is commendable.”
When Carpenter asked Kennard what his plan was if he were to be released, Kennard said he would work as a carpenter and live with family in Bessemer.
Before Carpenter announced his decision, Kennard said he was sorry for what he had done.
“I just want to say I’m sorry for what I did,” Kennard said. “I take responsibility for what I did in the past. I want the opportunity to get it right.”
“It means a lot for me that you are taking responsibility for what you have done,” Carpenter said.
Patricia Jones, Kennard’s niece, has been visiting her uncle in jail for as long as she can remember and said that he is a changed man. She also said the family, most of whom still live in Bessemer, would be there for him once he got out.
“It was a couple of years that he started talking about God and I knew he had changed,” Jones said. “He wants to be forgiven for what he had done and he wants the opportunity to come back and learn how to survive.”
Jones gave credit to a higher power for Kennard being released.
“God is just showing his power,” she said.
Crowder said that due to processing from the Alabama Department of Corrections, she was not sure when Kennard would be released.