Proposed law would let seniors leave prison before end of sentence

Ozarks Politics

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Missouri lawmaker does not want to see Missouri’s prisons turn into nursing homes.

The proposed legislation would give certain inmates who are senior citizens the chance to leave prison.

A well-known former inmate, Jeff Mizansky, came to the Missouri Capitol to testify in favor of the proposed legislation.

Mizansky was sentenced in 1996 to life in prison for a marijuana-related offense. His case made national headlines before he was released from prison in 2015 after receiving a pardon.

On Thursday, Feb 6, he spoke before the house special committee on criminal justice in support of legislation that would allow inmates who are 65 years of age or older and who have served 30 years of a life without parole sentence to have their case reviewed by a parole board.

“If you never give that person a chance to come out and do anything in their life even if it is just to go home and die with their family,” Mizansky said, “how are you rehabilitating them?”

Another stipulation in the bill is the crime must have occurred prior to October 1984 and include a minimum of a 50-year sentence.

The bill’s sponsor says it’s a way to address prior sentencing laws that eliminated the possibility for parole in those cases.

“These people are geriatric people age 65 they had to serve 30 years in prison and basically there is no relief this would give them the opportunity to go before a parole hearing,” State Representative Tom Hannegan said.

State Representative Lane Roberts told the bill’s supporters he appreciates their efforts but believes the legislation fails to consider what a life sentence means to victims.

“And for some of these victims the only justice they will ever receive is the insurance and knowledge this person is going to get every pound of justice coming to them,” Rep. Roberts said.

The bill would require anyone seeking parole to meet certain requirements including evidence they have a plan to adjust to life outside prison.

Representative Hannegan says his bill includes language that would prohibit a sex offender or someone with prior violent felonies to be eligible for parole.

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