Reforming Criminal Justice with a Unique Coalition of Nonprofits

Groups which typically represent different perspectives have come together to raise awareness about the need to reform the US criminal justice system. The US has just 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners—many of which are serving long sentences for non-violent drug crimes.

When the nonprofit Generation Opportunity Institute asked for our help to show the human consequences through powerful storytelling, we got involved by:

  • Identifying and developing the documentary story and subject
  • Producing a mini-documentary
  • Event programming and production to help amplify the message

Working with Families Against Mandatory Minimums, we helped Generation Opportunity Institute build an advocacy campaign around the story of Weldon Angelos. Weldon was a rising music producer who received a remarkable 55-year prison sentence for dealing small amounts of marijuana while in possession of a firearm.

Weldon Angelos was sentenced to a mandatory 55 years in prison. His sentence, and thousands of other non-violent offenders, were recently commuted by President Obama.

Weldon Angelos was sentenced to 55 years in prison through mandatory minimum sentencing. Recent criminal justice reform efforts helped secure his early release.

The mini-documentary we produced featured the struggles faced by Weldon’s two sons, as well as a powerful call for reform from Weldon’s sister. The video quickly gained 40,000 organic views and helped get the attention of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which ran a lengthy segment on the story highlighting footage from our documentary.

The video on Weldon has frequently been used at events and in meetings to help bring a coalition together which includes groups like the ACLU, NAACP, Charles Koch Institute and elected officials from both sides of the aisle including Sen Corey Booker (D) and Sen Mike Lee (R). Finally, the momentum grew so much that Weldon’s sentence was commuted and he was released 44 years ahead of schedule.

Weldon is now reunited with his family and fighting for criminal justice reform to help restore thousands more families like his. And Freethink will continue to explore the criminal justice issue through our upcoming series “Dope Science.”