A Louisiana man who was serving life in prison for selling $20 worth of marijuana was released after spending 12 years behind bars

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An entrance gate into one of the maximum security wings at Angola Prison. An entrance gate at a maximum security wing at Angola Prison. The Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola, and nicknamed the “Alcatraz of the South” and “The Farm” is a maximum-security prison farm in Louisiana operated by the Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections. 

A Black Louisiana man who was serving a life sentence and spent over a decade behind bars for selling $20 worth of marijuana to undercover cops was released from prison earlier this week. 

Fate Winslow, 53, was released from Angola Louisiana State Penitentiary on Wednesday after serving 12 years for marijuana distribution, WWL-TV reported

“A life sentence for two bags of weed? I never thought something like that could happen,” Winslow told WWL-TV. 

“I was so happy to get out,” he said.

Winslow was homeless in Shreveport, Louisiana, when he was confronted by an undercover officer who asked him for weed in 2008. As CNN reported, he used a friend’s bike to pick up the two bags of weed, which he sold for $20 to the plain-clothed officer. The officer then gave Winslow $5 for food and Winslow was later arrested for the sale, according to the report. 

Due to Winslow’s past offenses — which were all non-violent but including a business burglary, car burglary, and cocaine possession — he was sentenced to life in prison, WWL-TV reported. However, Winslow’s release comes after he was granted time served with the help of his attorneys from the Innocent Project New Orleans (IPNO), an organization that helps and represents innocent incarcerated individuals serving life in prison in  Louisiana and Mississippi. 

During November’s election, five states — Mississippi, New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota — voted to legalize marijuana in ballot measures. A month later, the House of Representatives would decriminalize cannabis on the federal level.

According to a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union, Black people are more likely to get arrested for marijuana possession even in states where it’s legal. And marijuana legalization, according to policy experts, may take some time despite the historic votes that took place the past several weeks. As Business Insider’s Kelly McLaughlin reported, in many states, there isn’t an automatic process to expunge — or seal — prior marijuana convictions from a person’s criminal record. Further, some states require inmates behind bars to file petitions for re-sentencings or dismissals of marijuana charges.

 “I cannot wait to have my dad back fully in my life,” Winslow’s daughter, Faith, said in an IPNO statement, according to WWL-TV. “Twelve years is a long time. Too long. He deserves a second chance and I am so glad he is getting one.”

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