Repeat offender Lovemore Manyika, 22, pleaded for life imprisonment in a note during mitigation after he was convicted for housebreaking.
"Life in prison is better than life in the streets," Manyika is reported to have said in his note which was read out by the state prosecutor, according to The Herald newspaper.
"May I have life in prison."
But the court sentenced Manyika to three years in jail.
Prosecutors said Manyika scaled a security wall at a block of flats in July before entering an apartment through a toilet window and stealing various electrical gadgets, two Apple iPhones and $1,800 (1,467 euros) cash.
The magistrate suspended six months of Manyika's sentence on condition that he pays back $1,956, the paper said.
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