The Riverfront Times in St. Louis, Missouri, has done a fantastic job of bringing the case of Jeff Mizanskey to national attention, but this story needs to go wider.
The Riverfront Times highlighted the injustice in this in October 2013 article:
Jeff's troubles began on December 18, 1993, when he drove his friend, Atilano Quintana, to a Super 8 motel in Sedalia to meet two men. Jeff says he thought they were going to meet two men to discuss moving furniture to New Mexico for Quintana's sister, who had recently moved there. To this day, he claims he had no clue Quintana was going there to buy a few pounds of marijuana.Led by Jeff's son, Chris Mizanskey, activists nationwide are saying "enough is enough." Jeff Mizanskey has served 21 years, watching people convicted of more serious violent crimes come and go, many completing their sentences or released on parole.
And Quintana didn't know that the two friends who were in the motel with the brick of weed had just been busted the day before -- with thirteen bricks of marijuana -- and were coerced to participate in a sting operation to nab more buyers, which is why there were cops and surveillance equipment in the adjoining room. You can guess what happened next.
Although Quintana was in possession of the package when he and Jeff were arrested and the surveillance video clearly suggests he was the one making the purchase, he was given a ten-year sentence for possession with intent to distribute, a Class B felony.
For the same charge, Jeff, who was busted in 1984 for selling an ounce of pot to an undercover cop and again in 1991 for possession of more than 35 grams of marijuana, got life without parole. He had never before done prison time, never had a violent offense, and his pot convictions did not have aggravating factors, such as involving minors or an illegal firearm. But none of that mattered because of an archaic Missouri law.
Jeff Mizanskey's heartbreaking story can be seen here:
Since his sentencing, Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana, 17 states have decriminalized it and two dozen states are considering reform in one way or another in coming months. And according to the Vera Institute of Justice, the average annual cost of incarceration is nearly $32,000, reaching as high as $60,000 in states like New York. Keeping nonviolent offenders like Jeff Mizanskey locked up for decades, based on antiquated laws, doesn't make moral or fiscal sense.
Jeff Mizanskey has more than paid his dues. It is time for Jeff Mizanskey to have his freedom back.