It’s been nine months since Weldon Angelos was released from prison - 43 years early.
Angelos spent 12 years behind bars for selling cannabis to a police informant before a federal court granted him a reduction in his sentence. Had he served the entirety of his 55-year minimum sentence, he would have been 80 years old upon his release.
Even so, those 12 years in the clink “destroyed [his] life”, breaking apart the 37-year-old father of three’s family and leaving him with next to nothing when he was released on May 31, 2016.
The former record producer, whose case was championed by hundreds of high-profile activists and organizations while he was still imprisoned, has spent the last nine months “rebuilding.” He now lives in Salt Lake City, has a new fiancé and can finally manoeuver an iPhone with relative ease (the brick-like Nokia Neo was the must-have gadget when he began his sentence.)
For all the moving on he’s managed to accomplish, however, his time in prison is never far from his mind. And he has no intentions of changing that.
Angelos is in the midst of orchestrating both a speaking tour and a documentary on his experience and the need for justice system reform.
Speaking to Civilized, he says he feels compelled to try and make change happen because he owes it to those still stuck behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses.
“I went through it. It destroyed my life, my family’s lives, and I’ve seen a lot of people in prison whose lives and family’s lives were destroyed, as well. And unfortunately, many of those people don’t have the support network I did,” said Angelos.
“There are so many people who deserve a second chance, who are left in there with no one to speak for them. I feel like I have to fill that role... to step up and be the voice.”
Angelos says the ultimate goal in each of his advocacy efforts is to encourage a “broad reform” of the way non-violent drug offenders are handled in the justice system.
“We’re hoping to influence those members of Congress who are kind of the [fence] and don’t know whether they want to support [reform]. We want to get them on our side and get something passed here,” said Angelos, who is promoting a “comprehensive bill” that covers such issues as retroactive release for pre-existing drug offenders and an overhaul of mandatory minimum sentencing legislation.
“This is a non-partisan issue... that can affect anyone, anytime, any place, any race,” added Angelos.
“When I was in prison I saw people from all over the country; people from the suburbs, people from the streets. And no one understands how much this can affect you until it actually does.”
Banner image: Weldon Angelos (courtesy of Sascha Streadman)