He Was Handed Life in Prison for Pot; Now He's Free

Jeff Mizanskey: 'It's like a dream come true'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 1, 2015 8:04 AM CDT
Jeff Mizanskey finally gets to leave prison.   (Jefferson City Correctional Center via AP)

(Newser) – After 21 years behind bars, served as part of a life sentence for three marijuana convictions, one of Missouri's rarest inmates will finally walk out of prison. Jeff Mizanskey—sentenced to life without parole in 1994—will be greeted by family members as he leaves Jefferson City Correctional Center this morning, reports KOMU. Gov. Jay Nixon altered his sentence to life with the possibility of parole in May, and after his first parole hearing on Aug. 4, the board took just four days to grant Mizanskey's release, rather than the usual six to eight weeks. "It's like a dream come true," Mizanskey told KCTV. Though he feels guilty for missing important moments in his kids' and grandkids' lives—"that's something I'll probably die with," he says—he now plans to spend time with family, assist youth offenders, and perhaps start a construction business, per KMBC.

He'll also support marijuana reform, but he won't smoke the stuff, even in states where it's legal, as long as it's illegal federally. It's part of a promise he made to his mother before her death that "I'd never do anything knowingly to break the law to get put back in (prison)," he says. After two convictions for marijuana possession in 1984 and 1991, Mizanskey was jailed for his role in the purchase of several pounds of marijuana in 1994 under Missouri's three-strikes law, repealed in 2014, reports KCTV. His son recently drew attention to his case, starting a petition that drew 400,000 signatures, while the group Show-Me Cannabis put up billboards asking residents to call Nixon to plead Mizanskey's case. The group has now started a "going-home" fund for Mizanskey, which has reached $7,000 of a $25,000 goal. (Read more prison stories.)

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