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Guy Frank

"Guy Frank," graphite on paper, 12¾″ × 17″. 2022

Guy Frank

Guy Frank was unjustly sentenced to over two decades in prison for stealing shirts, and endured the loss of many family members during his incarceration.

In September of 2000, Guy Frank was working as a waiter when he walked into a Saks Fifth Avenue in New Orleans and stole two shirts. Frank was previously convicted of three felonies for theft and drug crimes related to his addiction.  He was charged with theft of merchandise and represented in court by an inadequate public defender.

At his arraignment, his public defender offered no mitigating circumstances about Frank’s life, or arguments about why his sentence was too long. As reported by The Advocate, the public defender even allegedly told his client to “shut up” during a hearing. Frank was convicted as a “habitual offender,” enabling the prosecution to secure an extremely harsh and unjust sentence of over two decades in prison. Frank served twenty-one years in prison. During that time, his mother, father, wife, son and two brothers died. “It hurt me to see these people die while I was in prison,” he said upon being released in April 2021. “I can’t go back and get them out of the grave,” he said. 

Guy’s story is another example of how “habitual offender” laws and structural racism in the criminal justice system disproportionately impact black and poor people who are so often discarded by public defenders, judges and other officials in the criminal justice system.

Artwork and writing by Joe Ward, published June 16, 2023

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