Jeff Mizanskey, a Missouri man who has been serving a life sentence with no possibility for parole over marijuana possession, learned earlier this week that after more than two decades behind bars he gets to go home.
Three months ago, Governor Jay Nixon granted a commutation of Mizanskey’s sentence, which he suggested would give him the “opportunity to demonstrate that he deserves parole.” Last week, Mizanskey took full advantage of this newfound chance to lobby for his freedom, expecting for the parole board to take up to 12 weeks to reach a decision. However, after less than a week of deliberation, Mizanskey received word on Monday that his parole had been granted.
Attorney Dan Viets, who represents Mizanskey, said that with such a rapid verdict from the parole board, he anticipates his client could be let go within the month – probably sooner.
“We were notified today that he will be granted parole and be released within ’10 to 25 days,'” Viets confirmed with the Huffington Post in regards to the Missouri Department of Corrections’ decision.
Since the early 1990s, Mizanskey has been serving a life sentence with no chance for parole after falling victim to the state’s three-strike rule based on three separate non-violent offenses for possession of marijuana. Although the habitual offender law was repealed in 2014, Mizanskey’s chances of ever seeing the outside of the prison gates appeared hopeless in the face of this reform.
Fortunately, the case caught the attention of journalists from all over the country, who seemed to report, almost every week, on the injustice behind Mizanskey’s continued incarceration. A petition on Change.org, garnering the support of nearly 400,000 people, also kept the case in the public eye, as well as a letter signed by several members of the Missouri General Assembly asking Governor Nixon to show Mizanskey some compassion.
Many supporters believe that once state lawmakers began campaigning for Mizanskey’s release is the moment his story began to turn around.
Prior to last week’s hearing, Mizanskey told reporters that he was skeptical whether or not the parole board would grant him an early release. However, the Free Jeff Mizanskey Facebook page confirmed the news on Monday.
“Great news everyone… Jeff is coming home this month!” said the post. “We want everyone to know how greatful [sic] we are for all the support received throughout this whole ordeal.”
Unfortunately, there are still thousands of non-violent offenders locked up all over the country for possession of cannabis. The ACLU reports that 88 percent of all drug-related arrests in the United States are for marijuana possession – a pretty hefty rate considering that four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the leaf for recreational use. Further reports indicate that the federal government still spends tens of millions of dollars every year to enforce marijuana laws.
So, despite optimism and hope, ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake about it… the war on marijuana is far from over. But, fortunately, one of its POWs is coming home.
Should all pot POWs be free? Let us know.