SOUTH BAY, Fla. – The longest-serving, nonviolent inmate to be imprisoned on cannabis charges in the U.S. is due to be released from the South Bay Correctional Facility in South Bay, Florida, in December—just in time for the holidays.
After serving thirty-two years of a ninety-year sentence, Richard DeLisi has been granted clemency due to the efforts of prisoner advocacy organization Last Prisoner Project (LPP) and pro bono attorneys Chiara Juster, Elizabeth Buchanan, and Michael Minardi. A re-entry fund has been established on DeLisi’s behalf.
“Freedom! Freedom! My Lord, freedom! Mr. DeLisi is finally free to be with his family, his friends, and himself,” said Belushi’s Farm founder and LPP advisory board member Jim Belushi.
Belushi, who has donated toward DeLisi’s re-entry fund, added a call-to-action, “He needs our support now. He needs our help for his re-entry into freedom.”
The times, they are changing. DeLisi’s release represents a significant victory for LPP and for thousands of incarcerated, nonviolent offenders who continue to languish in prisons and jails, and those who have suffered the social consequences of incarceration for cannabis.
“Although in the courts this criminal injustice has been righted, [DeLisi’s] life has been stolen from him,” said Belushi. “Let’s return to their families and society all the other 40,000 lives that have been stolen and let them go.”
“It’s about time… literally… it’s all about time,” said musician and LPP advisory board member Damian Marley. “Time served… time spent away from family and loved ones… time that is gone forever… congratulations to Mr. DeLisi … it’s about time!!!”
“I am absolutely overjoyed to learn about Richard’s upcoming release,” said LPP Managing Director Mary Bailey. “His story really hits home for me because his charges were from my hometown of Polk County. I am so incredibly grateful to all of the activists, attorneys, and journalists who have worked towards the shared goal of Richard being united with his loving family. The fact that Richard and his family will be reunited in time for the holidays this year warms my heart.”
LPP was responsible for connecting DeLisi with lead attorney Chiara Juster, and legal team attorneys Elizabeth Buchanan and Michael Minardi through its pro bono program. Initially, Juster expressed disbelief that a nonviolent offender had been given the equivalent of three life sentences for cannabis trafficking charges and remained imprisoned after more than thirty-two years. “We participated in de-carcerating someone who couldn’t deserve it more,” she said.
DeLisi was 40 years old when he began his prison term on December 5, 1989. During his incarceration, his wife, his son Stephen, and both of his parents passed away. He will be able to celebrate this year, for the first time ever, with his two remaining children and five grandchildren.
“It feels amazingly wonderful to know that I will be home with my family and loved ones very soon,” DeLisi said. “I am grateful to everyone who has been there and helped me along in these long years. I have missed so many important moments with them and I can’t wait to get out there and create precious memories with everyone. I am so thrilled that this dark chapter of my life is finally over.”