Marquis Dixon says he plans on going to Herkimer County Community College to study business. He wants to get his car back, he looks forward to using his cell phone again and he’d like to see his mother Aisha. But he can’t because he’s in Albany County Jail. He says he wrote her last week but she says she hasn’t received the letter yet. He also called her for his sister’s 21st birthday but his mother didn’t pick up. She says she didn’t have enough minutes on her phone. But she also hints that perhaps she didn’t want to pick up, she didn’t want to hear from her son because he’s back behind bars. All of Marquis Dixon’s plans are on hold again. Less than a month after having his sentence changed and being released after a massive advocacy campaign, he’ll miss yet another holiday with his family.
On Tuesday, wearing on orange jumpsuit, Dixon told The Alt that he’s been in Albany County Jail since Dec. 5th for violating his parole. He says his parole officer violated him after he contacted a friend on Facebook. The officer Keri Hughes had warned him not to have anything to do with this particular friend. Calls to Hughes were not returned in time for publication.
Dixon says he is waiting for a bed to open up at a facility where he will serve out the remaining 45 days of his sentence. He plans to be out of the program in March. Until then he will be in Albany County Jail. He says he’d rather be here in jail than out on parole. “They had me with a leg bracelet on and a curfew at 6,” Dixon told The Alt. “I couldn’t talk to my friends. I finally get out and it’s like I’m still in prison. I just want to do my time and be done with it. It’ll be easier.” He says most of his friends had previous records or associated with people his parole officer wasn’t happy with. He hopes his mother will come visit.
Dixon was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2014 after being accused of stealing a pair of shoes after allegedly flashing a gun at his alleged victim during a meetup at the McDonald’s on Pearl Street in Albany. Dixon denied ever having a firearm. Witness testimony about the firearm also appeared inconsistent. Judge Thomas Breslin sentenced Dixon as an adult despite the fact that he was 16.
Appellate Justice Karen Peters reversed with the nine-year sentence and imposed one of 1-3 years. She also indicated she believed it was a mistake not to treat Dixon as a youthful offender.
Dixon was released from jail in early November. If Dixon had pleaded guilty as a youthful offender, he wouldn’t have been sentenced to more than 4 years.
Dixon and the handling of his case have become the focus of criminal justice reform campaigns in the area, especially as advocates have pressed for the state legislature to change New York’s law so that 16 and 17-year-olds are no longer tried as adults. North Carolina is the only other state in the union to try 16 and 17-year-olds as adults. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has tried unsuccessfully to change the law.
Albany District Attorney David Soares has come under fire from advocates for the harsh sentence. Dixon was floated as a write-in candidate for Albany County DA this fall, as Soares ran unopposed despite growing displeasure amongst the progressive community. Soares’ office declined a comment on Dixon’s arrest.
Marquis says he is at peace knowing that he has to serve his time quietly and will then finally have his freedom. He smiles, eyes focused ahead when talking about the future but from time to time, as other inmates come and go from other rooms his eyes dart to them. His head turns as if from instinct. He says he feels the system, including his parole officer, wanted to see him back in jail. He says he knows people are also rooting for him to succeed and that his success or failure will, no matter whether he wants it or not, have an impact on the debate over criminal justice reform.
But still he thinks about wanting the basic things–after nearly three years in jail he’d like to talk with girls his age without a bracelet on his leg; he’d like to work a job and be able to hang out in Albany. He seems certain he’ll have those things soon, despite his current situation. “It’s good. Come March I’ll be out. Forty-five days isn’t a big deal.“
His mother is still trying to process the situation, however. “I haven’t wrote him, haven’t visited him,” said Aisha Dixon. “I’m mad at him. I know he was feeling like there was nothing he could do, certain places he couldn’t go, so why be out? But what about me? What about spending time with your mother who was there for you? We didn’t even get a chance to watch a movie together when he was out. But sometimes you have to show tough love.”
The Alt passed on a message from Marquis to Aisha. “He wants me to visit? We’ll see. It’s been hard these three years. It’s been hard.”