A homeless and hungry man agreed to purchase $20 worth of weed for a stranger in exchange for a $5 finder's fee. After the man received his $5 (marked by the police) he was arrested and jailed.
"Six months later, a jury found him guilty of distribution of a schedule I substance (marijuana). Three months after that, a judge sentenced him to life imprisonment with hard labor, without the benefit of parole."
Fate Vincent Winslow is black. His story takes place in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Winslow's story, preserved in court documents, transcripts, and witness testimony, never made headlines in Louisiana. If it weren't for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the story may have all but disappeared. But in 2012, while launching an investigation into life sentences for nonviolent offenders, they selected the then 45-year-old as one of 650 inmates to investigate.
On four 8½ x 11 inch pages lined with questions, Winslow scribbled down his story. "Why did you get involved in this crime?" one survey question reads. "To get $5 dollars to get something to eat," he writes. Amid an appeal for money to find a new lawyer, mentions of suicidal thoughts, and confessions of alcohol addiction, Winslow flips the script. In bold black letters, written at the law library of the notoriously horrific Angola prison, he poses a question of his own:
"[They] let [Perdue] go and I got life: Please explain."
"Life in Prison for Selling $20 of Weed" [daily beast]