“I’m 62. I came in when I was 41. Since then, I’ve had grandchildren I’ve not even got to see yet,”
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A Sedalia grandfather who’s serving life in prison for non-violent marijuana offenses is still waiting for a chance at freedom.
Months after Missouri’s governor commuted his life without parole sentence, Jeff Mizanskey will have a hearing with the parole board on August 6.
“Just because you’re going up for parole, don’t mean you make it,” Mizanskey told 41 Action News during an interview inside the maximum security prison in Jefferson City.
Parole-eligible lifers are almost never paroled at their first hearing and often are never freed, according to the Marshall Project.
The nonprofit also found Missouri has one of the most secretive parole boards – one that’s not required to explain its decisions.
Mizanskey says he started asking Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon for clemency ever since he took office in 2009.
Nixon has granted pardons to other non-violent drug offenders.
Nixon announced in May that he commuted Mizanskey’s sentence to life with the possibility of parole, although “the governor may release the individual without further obligation,” according to Missouri’s Department of Corrections.
“It’s pretty frustrating, and if it wasn’t for our legislators, I don’t know if [Nixon] would’ve done it,” Mizanskey said.
Nixon commuted his sentence to life with the possibility of parole after more than 100 Missouri lawmakers joined nearly 400,000 people in signing a petition asking the governor to free Mizanskey.
“Why he wants me to be on parole after 21 years [in prison], I don’t know,” Mizanskey said.
One legislator even introduced a bill for Mizanskey’s release after hearing his story.
Mizanskey, a veteran of the Air Force, says he smoked pot for pain relief from his construction job in his hometown of Sedalia.
After his third marijuana conviction, for possession with intent to distribute, a judge sentenced him to life without parole under Missouri’s three strikes drug law.
State legislators have voted to end the law on Jan. 1, 2017, but not retroactively, meaning it doesn’t help Mizanskey.