Released on parole, 21 years after marijuana conviction, Jeff Mizanskey will be spending his first holidays with his family in more than two decades. This post from KCTV5.com focuses on Mizanskey’s adjusting to life on the outside and traveling across the country to share his story.
Jeff Mizanskey holds his great-granddaughter, Arreia, while at the dinner table with his family in Sedalia, MO.
“You don’t know what you miss until you get to hold a baby,” he said.
The blue-eyed girl sits comfortably on her great-grandfather’s lap, innocently unaware of what’s he’s gone through over the last 21 years.
In 1993, Mizanskey was arrested and charged with attempting to sell six pounds of marijuana. Because it was his third drug conviction, the judge sentenced Mizanskey to life without parole under the now repealed “prior and persistent offender” statute.
In August, Gov. Jay Nixon commuted Mizanskey’s sentence, giving him the option of parole, which the board quickly granted.
On Sept. 1, Mizanskey walked out of a Jefferson City prison. He’s not necessarily a “free man.” He’ll be on parole for the rest of his life.
It’s been three months since he was behind bars and Mizanskey said he’s adjusting well to life on the outside. He now travels across the country sharing his story.
KCTV5 was there when Mizanskey spoke to students at the University of Missouri about his life sentence for marijuana. He described what life was like living among some of the state’s most dangerous criminals.
“You’re going to work for them, fight or become one of their little girls,” he said with a hardened look on his face. “I can’t tell you how many fights I was in.”
The students were enthralled, hanging on to his every word.
“You all have the power,” he told them. “You got to register to vote and you have to vote.”
Mizanskey has spoken at events across Kansas and Missouri, as well as Colorado, Nevada, Chicago and Washington, D.C. In December, he’ll travel to California and be a guest speaker at The Emerald Cup, an outdoor cannabis competition.
While he’s a bit of a celebrity in the world of marijuana legalization, you won’t see him partake.
“Haven’t tried it,” he said with conviction. “Haven’t been drinking either. Ain’t been drunk. Just Coca-Cola.”
Marijuana is still illegal in Missouri and would send him back to prison.
He says his key to sobriety is the promise he made to his mother who died while he was in prison: no marijuana and no alcohol.
Back at the family home in Sedalia, Mizanskey is bouncing little Arreia on his knee. The conversation turns back to the little girl’s gorgeous blue eyes.
“When the sun hits them, they really get blue,” Mizanskey said.
Family is now Mizanskey’s priority.
“You don’t realize how much you miss them until you’re away from them,” he said.
This will be the first Thanksgiving and Christmas he’ll spend with his family in more than two decades. Mizanskey says he’s volunteered to wake up early and cook the turkey.