On September 5, 2008, Fate Vincent Winslow watched a plainclothes stranger approach him. Homeless and hungry, on a dark street rife with crime, the 41-year-old African American was anxious to make contact, motivated by one singular need: food.
Louisiana. The buckle of the bible belt. My fellow white folks sure like to talk about how much they love Jesus down there. It seems like there's a church on every other street. You know what I've never seen there? A homeless shelter.
I lived in Caddo Parish not far from where this man was arrested when I was a boy. He's just 2 years older than I am. We might have even known each other from the bus or the neighborhood at one point. The man was homeless and desperate.
They told him they would give him $5 if he would find $20 in weed for them. When they gave him the $5, they also arrested him and he was sentenced to life in prison. He didn't approach them, they brought up the idea of drugs. All he did was find it for them and bring it to them for five damned dollars.
This happened in 2012 but it never made the news until the ACLU started investigating disproportionate charges for crimes.
Think about this: LIFE with hard labor, slave labor, for the rest of his life all for about a single gram of marijuana. It boggles the mind. I have never sold illegal drugs in my life but then again, I've never in my adult life, been as homeless and as desperate as this man was.
Are we a nation or are we a police state? We punish the poor and hungry for being desperate, poor and hungry with life imprisonment. I cannot fathom the cold, careless and coarse inhumanity it takes to do such a thing to a poor homeless man but there it is. People will do anything to avoid starving to death. What this man did, absolutely does not, on any level, constitute a thing that any reasonable person should be willing to condemn a man to life imprisonment for. Killers have gotten less. Rapists get less. Child molesters get less.
Recently my new state legalized marijuana. I'm proud of my new home for that. You know what else I'm proud of Washington State for? It didn't send anyone to prison for LIFE over a joint.
Have a good night. Take care. And while you are laying in bed tonight, wherever you live, count your lucky stars you aren't homeless in Louisiana.