After 32 Years Behind Bars, Richard DeLisi Clemency Approved
Christmas is coming early this year for cannabis offender Richard DeLisi and his family. According to prison officials at South Bay Correctional Facility, DeLisi, America’s longest serving nonviolent cannabis prisoner, will be released next month — 18 months ahead of schedule. This will be the first Christmas since 1988 that DeLisi does not have to spend behind bars.
The early release date follows combined efforts by Last Prisoner Project and pro bono attorneys Chiara Juster, Elizabeth Buchanan, and Michael Minardi, in their supplements to DeLisi’s clemency application and their dedicated advocation on his behalf to local officials and key stakeholders in Florida.
Richard DeLisi began his 90-year-sentence in prison for marijuana trafficking on December 5, 1989 at the age of 40. While in prison, Richard’s son Stephen, his wife, and both of his parents passed away. Fortunately, Richard will be able to spend this Christmas with his two living children, Ashley and Rick, and his five grandchildren for the very first time.
Upon receiving the news Richard expressed to his legal team: “It feels amazingly wonderful to know that I will be home with my family and loved ones very soon. 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.”
“Richard’s original sentence was horrifying back in 1989; it is even more horrifying today when the State of Florida licenses, regulates, and taxes the sales of unlimited quantities of medical cannabis,” said Steve DeAngelo, Last Prisoner Project Co-Founder & Chairman Emeritus Harborside. “The sky has not fallen; the new laws are considered a success, and the state is very happy with the increased tax revenue— but Richard can never be fully repaid for the decades that were stolen from him. The best way to honor him by making sure this never happens to anybody else.”
Jim Belushi, Founder of Belushi’s Farm and Last Prisoner Project Advisory Board Member said, “Freedom! Freedom! My Lord, freedom! Mr. DeLisi is finally free to be with his family, his friends, and himself. Although in the courts this criminal injustice has been righted, his life has been stolen from him. Let’s return to their families and society all the other 40,000 lives that have been stolen and let them go.” Belushi, who has already committed a donation toward DeLisi’s re-entry fund, added this call-to-action, “He needs our support, now. He needs our help for his re-entry into freedom.”
“It’s about time… literally… it’s all about time…,” said Musician and Last Prisoner Project 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 Last Prisoner Project’s 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.”
Chiara Juster, Lead Attorney who was matched with Richard through LPP’s pro bono release program, was also ecstatic about the news. The former Florida prosecutor expressed her disbelief that DeLisi, a nonviolent offender incarcerated for a cannabis offense, is only now being released in 2021 and only after fighting tooth-and-nail for over three decades. “We participated in decarcerating someone who couldn’t deserve it more.” said Juster.
DeLisi’s daughter, Ashley, who hasn’t spent a birthday with her father since she was three years old said, “I just want to hug my dad outside of prison.” DeLisi’s son Rick also expressed his elation at being able to cook a meal for his dad and introduce him to his grandkids.
“It is a sad truth that children of those who are incarcerated are also given a sentence. They will finally feel free when Ashley’s dreams of hugging her dad in the free world come to fruition,” added Lead Attorney Juster.
Donate to Richard DeLisi’s Reentry Support Fund here.
ABOUT THE LAST PRISONER PROJECT
The Last Prisoner Project (LPP) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to cannabis-related criminal justice reform. As the United States moves away from the criminalization of cannabis, giving rise to a major new industry, there remains the fundamental injustice inflicted upon those who have suffered under America’s unjust policy of cannabis prohibition. Through intervention, advocacy and awareness campaigns, the Last Prisoner Project works to redress the past and continuing harms of these inhumane and ineffective laws and policies. Visit www.lastprisonerproject.org or text FREEDOM to 24365 to donate and learn more.