MO Republican Introduces Bill to Free Nonviolent Grandfather Serving Life for Pot

Inspired by the plight of Jeff Mizanskey, a MO grandfather serving life in prison without parole for three marijuana offenses, freshman Missouri Republican State Representative Shamed Dogan recently introduced a bill that would free currently-incarcerated nonviolent offenders who are serving life in prison without parole for pot.

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Barry Donegan
Barry Donegan is a writer, musician, and pro-liberty political activist living in Nashville, TN. Donegan served as Director-at-Large of the Davidson County Republican Party from 2009-2011 and was the Middle Tennessee Regional Coordinator over 30 counties for Ron Paul's 2012 Presidential Campaign. Follow him at facebook.com/barry.donegan and twitter.com/barrydonegan

In September of last year, BenSwann.com reported on the plight of 61-year-old Jeff Mizanskey, a small-time, nonviolent pot dealer who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for three marijuana offenses under Missouri’s since-repealed Prior and Persistent Drug Offender statute. Though he remains behind bars, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that one freshman Republican state-level lawmaker is taking aggressive steps to free Mizanskey, who has already spent over two decades behind bars. Since Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has yet to take action and grant clemency for the incarcerated grandfather, Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) has introduced HB 978, a bill that “requires the Board of Probation and Parole to authorize the release of any offender who is incarcerated on August 28, 2015 and who is serving a life sentence without parole for marijuana offenses.”

As it happens, only Jeff Mizanskey fits that description, and, considering the fact that the Prior and Persistent Drug Offender law that led to his incarceration officially expires on January 1, 2017, he will likely be the last to suffer such a fate in the state. In a February 18 press release cited by Riverfront Times, Rep. Dogan said, “It is unconscionable to me that this man, who is no danger to society, will spend the rest of his life in prison at taxpayer expense… Many of my legislative colleagues have come together to implore the governor to commute Mr. Mizanskey’s life sentence, but to date the governor has done nothing more than promise to review Jeff’s case before he leaves office.”

The bill, which Rep. Dogan feels is unlikely to pass, has been introduced in an effort to launch hearings that he hopes will put pressure on Governor Nixon to grant clemency for Mizanskey. Though Nixon ignored Mizanskey’s pleas for clemency for quite some time, he has recently changed his tune and said that he is going to closely review the case. Governor Nixon spoke with KMBC-TV earlier this month about the perpetually-imprisoned grandfather and said, “It’s a very serious amount of time… If the laws change after someone is sentenced, then you want to give those things a close look.”

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Rep. Dogan described his views on criminal justice in his press release on HB 978, “I fully support long sentences for repeat violent offenders, because I believe the punishment should fit the crime… In Mr. Mizanskey’s case, I am outraged by the fact that someone who violated our marijuana laws is being treated as harshly as a murderer and incarcerated for life.” Missourinet notes that Rep. Dogan said, “I think when the criminals in the prisons realize the injustice of something, something’s wrong… The idea that these people who have committed robberies, who’ve committed rapes, who’ve committed all kinds of violent crimes, and are a threat to our society can get out after five or ten years, and he’s still sitting there after twenty.”

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