Truth in Media reported last September on the plight of Jeff Mizanskey, a now 62-year-old grandfather who had been sentenced to life in prison without parole for three non-violent marijuana convictions under Missouri’s since-repealed Prior and Persistent Drug Offender statute. After state legislators led by Republican Representative Shamed Dogan pressed Missouri’s governor to step in on Mizanskey’s behalf and set him free, Governor Nixon commuted the grandfather and Air Force veteran’s sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Mizanskey remains behind bars in a maximum security prison, his imprisonment draining taxpayer funds, as he continues to serve the twenty-first year of what is still an active life sentence. His first parole hearing is set for August 6. However, analysis by the criminal justice non-profit Marshall Project and cited by KSHB-TV found that Missouri has “one of the most secretive parole boards – one that’s not required to explain its decisions” and that “parole-eligible lifers are almost never paroled at their first hearing and often are never freed.”
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has the authority to free Mizanskey outright, but so far has refused to do so, citing what he referred to as the seriousness of Mizanskey’s marijuana convictions. In 2011, Governor Nixon’s own son was cited with marijuana possession before the charges were later dropped by prosecutors.
“Why [Governor Nixon] wants me to be on parole after 21 years [in prison], I don’t know,” said Jeff Mizanskey to KSHB-TV. “Just because you’re going up for parole, don’t mean you make it… I’m 62. I came in when I was 41. Since then, I’ve had grandchildren I’ve not even got to see yet. You know, to be out there with my family, friends, it would mean the world.”
CBS St. Louis notes that Mike Mizanskey, Jeff Mizanskey’s brother, has been asking supporters to submit letters to the Jefferson City Correctional Center parole board asking for his release. “I suggest that the letters be short, no more than one or two pages ideally. They should begin with the writer stating how he or she knows Jeff or knows about his case. The writer should then state that he or she believes Jeff has suffered enough for his crimes and deserves to be released. What it actually says is probably less important than the fact that a person is willing to speak up on Jeff’s behalf,” said Mike Mizanskey. A group called POW 420 published the address to the Jefferson City Correctional Center on its website.
Analysis by KSHB-TV found that taxpayers have spent almost $500,000 keeping Mizanskey behind bars for the past 21 years, with each additional year costing around $22,000.
Watch the Truth in Media Project’s Consider This video, embedded below, which examines some facts about non-violent inmates serving hard time under the War on Drugs.