Should a Hungry Homeless Man Really Get 15 Years?


I’m a little haunted by the story of a homeless man who just received a 15-year prison sentence for stealing a box of cereal and a can of milk.  Well, of course it’s not THAT simple.  He has a long history of non-violent offenses stemming from alcoholism, but is it justice that such a sentence is given when someone who receives a “life-sentence” for a violent crime is usually eligible for parole in just 20?  Five years difference?  Granted, this man will surely qualify for early release, but it just bothers me as I reflect on just how many times through the years there must have been opportunities to intervene.  Here, read the report and then maybe you’ll see what I’m talking about:

Homeless Man With More Than 50 Prior Convictions Gets Prison Time for Stealing Cereal

BARTOW, Fla.  —  A homeless man with a long criminal record received a 15-year sentence for stealing a box of cereal and a can of evaporated milk.
Mark Anthony Griffin, from Bartow, Fla., was sentenced as a “prison release re-offender,” which stiffens penalties for defendants convicted within three years of prison release.

Griffin has more than 50 prior convictions — most on minor charges like trespassing, disorderly intoxication and petit theft.

He rejected a plea deal that would’ve given him 3 years in prison and 2 years of probation.

At the Sept. 25 sentencing, Griffin’s brother said his record came from a long history of alcohol abuse.

While out of jail awaiting trial in the cereal case, Griffin picked up four additional charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct.

The guy was hungry.  I’m not denying the man has problems. When you get arrested after being arrested and awaiting trial, there’s a serious problem, but what is our responsibility in there?  Hear me…I’m NOT suggesting some kind of Socialism here.  This isn’t meant to be political.  I’m just wondering about alternatives.  What is the role of the church in a situation like this?  What is the role of individuals like you and me to get involved in people’s lives to the point that this kind of thing happens less frequently.  15 years for a box of cereal and milk.  I don’t know.  Not suggesting I have the answers, just thinking out loud.  Feel free to join the conversation…at least the one going on in my head.