A California inmate sentenced to life in prison for a three-strikes conviction on a joyriding charge has been released from prison after serving 23 years.
Kenneth Oliver, 52, was freed from prison Monday after California prosecutors dropped their opposition to resentencing under a voter initiative that repealed parts of the state’s three-strikes law, according to a press release. The Associated Press has coverage.
Oliver also received a $125,000 settlement for eight years spent in solitary confinement. He was represented by pro bono lawyers from Mayer Brown and Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project.
Prison officials had deemed Oliver a “gang associate” because of materials in his jail cell that included the book Blood in My Eye, written by the co-founder of a prison gang. That designation made release nearly impossible under the voter initiative known as Proposition 36. Possession of the book also led to his solitary confinement for eight years.
Blood in My Eye has a 4½-star rating on Good Reads. The author, George Jackson, died in a prison escape.
Mayer Brown and the Three Strikes Project filed a civil suit that voided and expunged the gang validation. Then they submitted briefing and expert testimony in support of immediate release.
Oliver was a passenger in a stolen vehicle when he was arrested.
“I really haven’t wrapped my head around it fully,” Oliver told the Associated Press after his release.
“Some people go crazy” in solitary conferment, Oliver told the Associated Press. “Me, I chose to read and try to find a way out of there and not let that circumstance define me.”