A Florida man who spent 31 years in prison for a non-violent marijuana crime was released


Richard DeLisi, 71, was released on Tuesday from the South Bay Correctional Facility in Palm Bay County, the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed to CNN.

He has been imprisoned since 1989 when he was convicted of scheduling, cannabis trafficking and conspiracy and sentenced to 90 years in prison for smuggling more than 100 pounds of marijuana from Colombia to Florida.

His release has not been behind bars for the first time in 32 years, according to a nonprofit called the Last Prisoner Project, which is calling for the release of prisoners convicted of marijuana.

The Last Prisoner Project, in collaboration with lawyers, called for the release of a non-violent cannabis prisoner for the longest time in the country. The group said the epidemic made its release even more urgent, citing health and chronic health problems such as asthma, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as factors that increase the risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19. The group’s lawyers also stressed the non-violent nature of his crime. Moreover, since its belief, laws governing marijuana use have changed dramatically in many states, in some cases decriminalizing it for recreational purposes.

Despite pressure from the Last Prisoner Project, Florida Department of Corrections press secretary Kayla McLaughlin told CNN that the decision to raise DeLisi’s release date was not “related to any outside action.”

DeLisi’s release date was originally raised from the summer of 2022 to May 2021 after an error was discovered in his records, McLaughlin said, reinstating his 390-day temporary release, which was due at the start of his 1989 sentence.

Good behavior “won time” or reduced his sentence as well. DeLisi had previously lost the 120-day “winning time” due to disciplinary violations. But because DeLisi’s last disciplinary report was in July 2005, and since its new release, 120 days after May 2021, was entitled to restore the “profit time” that went up on the release date, McLaughlin said.

DeLisi’s family met him on Tuesday, said Mary Bailey, executive director of the last prisoner project who was involved in DeLisi’s release. He met two of his five grandchildren for the first time and enjoyed seafood with his family after testing the Covid-19. Bailey said.

DeLisi’s release was preceded by a House vote on national decriminalization of marijuana – lawmakers say “is designed to address the devastating injustices caused by the drug war.” He is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

Correction: An earlier version of the story misspelled the name of the country, Colombia.

CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to the report.