A federal judge working in Brooklyn took an active stance against America’s parole-to-prison pipeline last week, refusing to send a recently-released convict back to jail for a minor marijuana charge. In his decision, Judge Jack Weinstein said that the focus of supervised prison release should be rehabilitation, not punishment, and that we would no longer re-incarcerate cannabis users. Trotter served two years in jail for selling heroin, before being released with three years of supervised parole. While under state watch, Trotter was charged with smoking marijuana, and faced years of additional prison time for the minor indiscretion. Citing weed’s growing normalization, Judge Weinstein said that the potential punishment did not match the crime.
Judge Weinstein, 96, was appointed in 1967 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and has made a name for himself over the past half-century for challenging the powers that be, rejecting status quo police powers and racist prosecution methods.
Turning his attention to cannabis last week, Weinstein argued that micromanaging supposedly rehabilitated convicts does not actually help the individuals, but instead serves to reinforce the idea that they will be criminals for the rest of their lives.
Breaking from traditional protocol that would have sent Trotter back to jail, Judge Weinstein dismissed the 22 year-old, and even went one step further by terminating his post-release supervision altogether.
“He must attempt to lead a productive life on his own,” wrote Judge Weinstein.