Jeff Mizanskey, who has been serving a life prison sentence in Missouri for marijuana only offenses, had a parole hearing yesterday. For a very long time it’s something that I’m sure Mr. Mizanskey thought may never happen. Now that the parole hearing has been held, it’s my understanding that the decision to grant him parole or not will take 6-8 weeks. I cannot wrap my head around why it takes so long to a make such a simple decision. It shouldn’t take 6-8 weeks to determine that more than enough of Jeff Mizanskey’s life has been taken away from him because of a plant that is 114 times safer than alcohol. But, I guess it’s better that it’s happening later rather than not at all. Below is a reaction to the hearing from the Show-Me Cannabis campaign, who has been vital to helping free Jeff:
By Dan Viets
Jeff Mizanskey was sentenced to serve life in prison without possibility of parole as a “prior and persistent drug offender” who was convicted of three relatively small marijuana law violations and has never been convicted of any other felony offenses. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon commuted his sentence to make him eligible for parole following an intensive effort coordinated by Show-Me Cannabis, Missouri NORML and others.
Jeff Mizanskey’s hearing before the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole took place this morning, Thursday, August 6, at the Jefferson City Correctional Center. I was honored to appear with Jeff and represent him in this hearing.
The three members of the Parole Board who presided over the hearing asked several questions. I was very encouraged by the fact that their primary concern seemed to be what Jeff’s plans are for his life if he is released from prison. We told the Parole Board that Jeff has a strong network of support which includes his family and friends in the Sedalia, Missouri community as well as throughout the state of Missouri.
We presented to the Board several dozen letters from those family members and friends in support of Jeff’s release. We also gave the Board a copy of a letter signed by 126 members of the Missouri General Assembly urging Governor Nixon to release Jeff.
We presented the Board with several documents, including Jeff’s honorable discharge from the United States Air Force as well as several certificates confirming his successful completion of a half dozen rehabilitation programs offered by the Missouri Department of Corrections. The Board seemed especially impressed with the fact that Jeff had undertaken these rehabilitation programs long before he had any reason to believe that he would ever be eligible for release from prison.
Jeff was sentenced to a term of life without parole as a “prior and persistent” drug offender. Under Missouri law, anyone convicted as a “prior and persistent” drug offender faces a range of punishment of ten years to life in prison without possibility of parole. Jeff received the maximum sentence after his conviction for relatively small marijuana-related charges. Jeff has never been convicted of any felonies other than marijuana violations. He has never even been accused of any threat or act of violence toward another human being.
As we pointed out to the Board, the Missouri General Assembly has acted to repeal the “prior and persistent drug offender” statute and that repeal will become effective on January 1, 2017. I served on the Missouri Bar Committee which drafted a comprehensive revision of the entire Missouri Criminal Code, including the repeal of the “prior and persistent” drug law.
The Board told us that we should expect a decision within six to eight weeks after the hearing on August 6. It is certainly possible that a decision could be announced sooner.
We urge those who support releasing Jeff on parole to write to the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole at 3400 Knipp Drive, Jefferson City, Missouri 65109. Jeff’s prisoner number is 00521900. You may also email Parole and Probation Chairman Ellis McSwain at firstname.lastname@example.org.