When Jeff Mizanskey was sentenced for his involvement in the sale of approximately six pounds of cannabis in a police sting back in 1993, it was his third nonviolent marijuana offense.
In 1984 he pled guilty to possession and distribution of one ounce. In 1991 he again pled guilty to possession. At the time of the third sentencing in 1993, the state of Missouri upheld a three-strikes law, and he was labeled as a “prior and persistent offender.” As a result, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Last year, Missouri repealed that three-strikes law, and thanks to the work of some persistent advocates, Mizanskey’s attorney, Dan Viets, has confirmed that he will be released from prison just days after having spent 21 years behind bars.
Governor Jay Nixon granted a limited commutation for the excessive sentence, allowing Mizanskey to apply for a parole hearing, which was held on Aug. 4. The favorable ruling was announced much to the delight of those who feel that non-violent cannabise-related sentences are often too harsh.
The letter sent to Gov. Nixon, by Mizanskey’s family, read:
Jeff Mizanskey has never committed violence and is most certainly a model prisoner. For 20 years he has sat behind bars, only to watch as rapists and murders come and go and sometimes come back again. Meanwhile the State of Missouri spends roughly $22,000 annually to house him – over $400,000 has been spent so far.
About half of all U.S. drug arrests involve marijuana, and most arrests are for simple possession. This puts a huge strain on the prison system in the United States, both financially and socially. Black individuals are nearly four times as likely to be arrested as whites for a marijuana offense, a figure which only serves to increase racial tensions. Additionally, some estimate that the government spends up to $20 billion per year to handle cannabis-related crime.
The widespread belief that current sentencing practices for these types of crimes are unfair prompted over 400,000 people to sign a petition started by Mizanskey’s son that called for his father’s release. With 391,254 signatures, the petitions was confirmed a victory that made change.
A Facebook page was even started to keep proponents updated on the story. Upon the notification of the imminent release, the Free Jeff Mizanskey page shared the happy news by saying:
“Great news everyone…Jeff is coming home this month! We want everyone to know how grateful we are for all the support received throughout this whole ordeal.”
Mizanskey is scheduled to be released on Tuesday September 1 sometime before 10am.
Governor Nixon also granted pardons to several other inmates who had received similar convictions for nonviolent crimes having to do with marijuana.
photo credit: Free Jeff Mizanskey FB