Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s recent announcement was as welcome as it was unexpected.
Nixon commuted Jeffrey Mizanskey’s 1996 sentence of life without the possibility of parole. The 62-year-old former Sedalia resident, who faced the prospect of dying in prison after his third marijuana arrest, is eligible for a parole hearing.
Mizanskey’s sentence never made sense. He’d pleaded guilty twice for nonviolent marijuana possession and sale charges and had spent only 60 days in a county jail.
Then Mizanskey was convicted of conspiring to sell six pounds of pot to a dealer connected to Mexican drug cartels. With three strikes against him, he was sentenced to life without parole under a Missouri statute thought to be the nation’s harshest state law for punishing drug offenders. Thankfully, it was softened in a comprehensive reform of the state’s criminal code last year.
Nixon said his “action provides Jeff Mizanskey with the opportunity to demonstrate that he deserves parole.”
Nixon should now extend his good judgment to 14 female inmates whose long prison sentences failed to account for the abuse they endured before committing crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder.
The Community Coalition for Clemency called upon Nixon last year to commute the women’s sentences, noting that some already have spent more than 30 years behind bars.
They were sentenced at a time when the criminal justice system looked at domestic violence differently than today, just as the perception of marijuana crimes has changed over the years.
There is no reason to force the women to serve implausibly long sentences at taxpayer expense.