In a victory for advocates of ending the drug war, Missouri’s last remaining prisoner serving life without the possibility of parole for a non-violent marijuana related offense was released yesterday. Jeff Mizanskey received a life sentence in 1993 when he received his third marijuana-related conviction under the state’s mandatory 3-strike policy.
Mizanskey’s release is the result of years of lobbying and activism on his behalf, most notably through an online petition that was circulated by his son. In the petition, Chris Mizanskey pleads for MO Governor Jeremiah Nixon to grant clemency to his father, saying:
“He has never been violent and he is a model prisoner. And over the 20 years he has been in that little cell, he has watched as violent criminals, rapists, and murderers have ‘paid their debts’ and left – sometimes just to return a few months later.”
After nearly 400,000 signatures (including some state legislators) were delivered to the Governor on April 29, 2015, Gov. Nixon commuted the elder Mizanskey’s sentence to life with the possibility of parole on May 22, 2015.
It was not until early August that Mizanskey finally received his parole hearing, with the promise of a decision in six to eight weeks. Less than a week later, his parole was granted, and a release date of 10-25 days out was set.
On Tuesday, a 62-year old Jeff Mizanskey walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Facility into the arms of his son, family, friends, and cannabis activists. His release was received wide media coverage and was celebrated by industry advocates around the country.
While Mizanskey was the last remaining non-violent marijuana offender serving life without parole in Missouri, other states still have harmful mandatory sentencing laws that need to be addressed. Hopefully the perils of Jeff Mizanskey will lead Missouri to get rid of their 3-strike policy and hopefully encourage other states to do the same.
Congratulations to Jeff, the Mizanskey family, and everyone who was a supporter!