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Why a Florida Man’s 20-Year Sentence for Stealing Cigarettes Isn’t a Case for Criminal Justice Reform

Robert Spellman Jr. last week received a 20-year prison sentence after a jury convicted him on burglary and grand theft charges for stealing $600 worth of cigarettes from a Florida convenience store.

It’s a sentence Spellman, of Pensacola, Florida, well deserves.

Spellman’s sentence has become a national (and international) story in part because of robust efforts at both the federal and state levels to reform the criminal justice system—reform that is undoubtedly needed.

Some are calling Spellman’s sentence insane and unduly harsh, given the nature of his crime, while others are griping about how much it will cost taxpayers to keep Spellman in prison.

Still others are blaming Spellman’s criminal behavior on a failed system.

If Spellman were being unjustly sentenced under a harsh mandatory-minimum sentencing regime or if petty theft were his only offense, then the critics would be fully justified in what they are saying. But that’s not the case.

Spellman has a history of 14 felony and 31 misdemeanor convictions, dating back to 1986. He is, in other words, a career criminal—the type of individual who belongs behind bars.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Spellman’s criminal history includes convictions for robbery with a gun or deadly weapon, aggravated assault with a weapon, aggravated battery with an intent to harm, petty theft, burglary, cocaine possession, and resisting an officer with violence.

Read the full story from The Daily Signal

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