Longest-Serving Inmate, 71, for Non-Violent Marijuana Charge Is Released After 31 Years in Prison

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Richard DeLisi, 71, was sentenced to 90 years for on marijuana charges decades ago.

A Florida man sentenced to 90 years for on marijuana charges decades ago has finally been released after serving 31 years in prison. Richard DeLisi, 71, was the longest serving inmate for non-violent marijuana charges in the country, and now he will be home for Christmas.

“It actually feels like 10 times better than wonderful,” DeLisi, 71, told The Ledger. “It was so unjust what they did to me. I just hope that I can help other people that are in the same situation.”

DeLisi had been serving his time in South Bay Correctional Facility in Palm Beach after being sentenced to, in total, 90 years in prison for racketeering, trafficking cannabis and conspiracy in 1989. His brother was also convicted of the same charges at the time, and they received the same sentence of three consecutive 30-year sentences.

The Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit that advocates for people serving long sentences for nonviolent, cannabis-related crimes, heard DeLisi’s story and began pushing for his release.

His brother had successfully appealed his conspiracy conviction and he was released in 2013. DeLisi’s appeal was rejected.

The Florida Department of Corrections said that the shortening of DeLisi’s sentence had nothing to do with outside advocation. They said the department was reviewing records as per usual and realized DeLisi hadn’t been awarded 390 days of provisional release credits for several months he served before his conviction.

He also reportedly received a restoration of gain time he lost after a disciplinary infraction in 2005. The department said those two things combined moved up his release date to Tuesday.

"He has been ripped apart from his family for 32 years. And as a society in Palm Beach County, we are no safer because of that," Attorney Elizabeth Buchanan said of DeLisi’s case, according to WTVX.