Article from Reason by Zuri Davis.

When Willie Nash was booked into a Mississippi corrections facility, officers failed to confiscate his phone. For that, he was sentenced to 12 years behind bars. The state’s Supreme Court acknowledges that proper booking procedure was probably not followed and that Nash did not seem to know his phone was illegal, but they nonetheless ruled Thursday that the sentence is fair.

After Nash was booked into the Newton County Jail on a misdemeanor charge, he asked a jailer to charge his phone, seemingly unaware that he was not supposed to have the item. Mississippi Code Section 47-5-193 considers the possession behind bars of “any weapon, deadly weapon, unauthorized electronic device, contraband item, or cell phone” a felony; the offense carries a prison sentence of three to 15 years.

A jury then found Nash guilty of possessing of a cell phone in a correctional facility. At sentencing, the judge told Nash to “consider yourself fortunate.” Had the court used Nash’s previous burglary convictions to classify him as a habitual offender, he would have received the full 15 years in prison, not 12.

Nash appealed not the conviction but the lengthy sentence, which he said was both “grossly disproportionate” and a violation of his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. He also argued that the statute’s list of prohibited items put them in descending order of seriousness, implicitly indicating “differing degrees of transgression” that deserved different penalties. But the state Supreme Court decided that it could not find “under the law that the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing.”

Read the entire article at Reason.

Image Credit: By St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons