Freedom for a man who was serving life sentence for pot

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KTVI) - After more than decades in prison, Jeff Mizanskey never imagined he’d see the outside.  Tuesday he began a new life, surrounded by family who wore #JusticeForJeff shirts.  Mizanskey wore one saying “I’m Jeff and I’m free.”

He gasped when he said, “It’s kind of overwhelming. It’s good to be free.”

He held his seven-month-old great granddaughter for the first time.  She wore a little #JusticeForJeff t-shirt and he kissed her on the head.  He added, “That’s the first time I held a baby in 21 years.  I held my first granddaughter when I was in prison a few years back. Wow. I missed a lot, one third of my life.”

He’s 62-years-old and was not eligible for parole, until Missouri Governor Jay Nixon commuted his sentence.

We first interviewed Mizanskey inside the Jefferson City Correctional Center this spring.  That’s when he told us, “I’ve seen some guys who’ve committed murder go and then come back and then go again.”

Police busted him in 1993 in Sedalia, MO during an undercover marijuana sting.  A judge sentenced him as a prior and persistent offender.  It was his third strike, but then legislators changed that law.

In April, Republican Representative Shamed Dogan from Ballwin said, “We as a body realized that this type of sentence is disproportionate for these types of offenses.”

Rep. Dogan drafted the letter asking for clemency.  In April, legislators and citizens delivered boxes of signatures to the Governor.

After his release today, Mizanskey said, “If it wasn’t for the people, if it wasn’t for all of you all getting the story out to the people so they could hear it, I’d still be in prison. I’d be dying in there.”

Mizanskey and his family’s first stop was the Towne Grill in Jefferson City.  Family and friends toasted, “He’s a free man, whoooo.”  Mizanskey smiled as he lifted his coffee cup and said, “It’s been a long time coming.”  He called it his first cup of good coffee in 22 years.   Then he took a bite of his first meal outside of the pen, a Philly cheese steak omelet.  He looked up with his eyes clothes and said, “It tastes like freedom.”

Mizanskey’s first thoughts were about catching up with family, but he said he’d also like to continue doing what he did inside prison and mentor young people who need job skills.

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