Man Gets Life In Prison For $20 Worth Of Weed

The Daily Beast’s Abby Haglage recently covered the story of Fate Vincent Winslow, a homeless man who agreed to sell $20 worth of weed to a stranger because he wanted something to eat. A plain clothes undercover officer Jerry Alkire asked Winslow to find him “a girl and some weed.” Winslow agreed to find the man some weed in exchange for $5 to buy himself something to eat.
black man handcuffs
Winslow was arrested and sent to prison.  After being locked up for six months, he was found guilty by a jury of distribution of a schedule I substance. A judge then sentenced him to life in prison with hard labor without the possibility of parole. How did Winslow wind up with such a harsh sentence? His existing criminal record of multiple non-violent felonies caused prosecutors to seek out the maximum punishment allowed by law.
Winslow’s previous convictions included simple burglary at the age of 17 in 1985, the same charge in 1994, and cocaine possession in 2004. His criminal record of multiple felonies was a significant factor in him winding up without a job, money, or food because his drug felony left him ineligible for food stamps and unemployable for most jobs.
Winslow’s life sentence may be one of the harshest sentence to be doled out for a marijuana violation, but he is not alone, ACLU investigator Jennifer Turner points out that his case is, “A typical example of the draconian punishments meted out under three-strikes laws.” Stories like Winslows are chronicled in Turner’s 240 page report on people serving life sentences for minor crimes in America’s criminal justice system.
The report is entitled, “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for NonViolent Offenders. It points out that there are currently 3,278 people, 65 percent of whom are Black, who have been sentenced to die in prison for committing nonviolent offenses, most of them drug related. More humane countries have banned life without parole sentences; America needs to consider doing the same, especially for victimless, nonviolent crimes.

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