After spending more than 21 years behind bars for non-violent marijuana offenses, Jeff Mizanskey has been released in what is one of the most glaring examples of the failed war on drugs.
“I’ve spent a third of my life in prison. One-third,” an emotional Mizanskey, 61, told a gathered crowd following his release Tuesday. “That’s a shame. This is America. I just can’t believe it happened.”
Mizanskey received a life sentence for minor, non-violent drug offenses and “he saw rapists, murderers and child molesters get out of prison while he was sentenced to die behind bars for something that should not be a crime to begin with,” said Dan Viets, Mizanskey’s lawyer, in a statement.
He had originally landed behind bars in 1996 after attempting to sell six pound of marijuana to people connected with a Mexican drug cartel. Before that, he had two drug convictions in 1984 and 1991, one for possession and sale of marijuana and the other for possession. At the time of the sentencing, persistent drug offenders were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Last year, that law was repealed by the Missouri General Assembly.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon agreed to commute Mizanskey’s sentence in May, allowing the inmate to argue for his freedom.
“My father has never met his grandchildren and wasn’t allowed to attend the funerals when his parents died,” said his son, Chris Mizanskey in a statement. “His conviction devastated the family.”
Upon release, Mizanskey began to point out the flaws of holding non-violent drug offenders behind bars and plans to continue to advocate for the release of non-violent drug offenders from the prison system he found so many flaws with while on the inside.
88% of the 693,482 people arrested for a marijuana law violation in 2013 were arrested for possesion only.