Freed May 31, 2024

Incarcerated for 26 years, 11 months, and 5 days

Ricky Banks was released on May 31, 2024, after nearly 27 years in prison for selling two rocks of cocaine to an undercover officer. Mr. Banks was given a mandatory life sentence because he had prior convictions. The circumstances that had led him to that moment didn’t matter, nor did any of his personal qualities: the law required life.

Mr. Banks worked hard during his incarceration. He focused on learning and taking programs. Sometimes those programs were challenging, but he didn’t quit. He worked in the kitchen for nearly a decade and received a written commendation from prison staff for his service and work ethic. He became a trustee, he went to church, he received family visits, and he exercised. He became known for his reliability, his positive attitude, and his friendly demeanor.

In 2021, a law passed giving people sentenced to life for non-violent crimes a chance at parole after serving 15 years. IPNO’s Unjust Punishment Project represented Mr. Banks at his parole hearing, and he was released after serving nearly twice that long. His brother and sister-in-law met him at the prison gates, and he was later reunited with his mother Ms. Ruby Lee.

Habitual offender life sentences send people to die in prison based on a math problem about their convictions, not on who they are as people, or the circumstances surrounding the crime. People serving life sentences are parents, siblings, and children. They are hard workers, generous, devout, skilled, joyful, and determined. They are also getting ready for the day when the laws might change and they might be released. We are so glad that day has finally come for Mr. Banks.