After spending 31 long years behind bars, Richard DeLisi walked out of prison a free man this week.
According to CBS, the 71-year-old was originally sentenced to 90 years in prison for selling marijuana in 1989. While serving that sentence in a South Florida prison, his wife, parents, and 23-year-old son all passed away. During that time, his daughter also experienced a paralyzing stroke following a terrible car accident. Sadly, DeLisi had to experience these tragedies isolated from his family, over a substance that is now legalized in much of the country.
The Last Prisoner Project, an organization that helped push for his release, told reporters that DeLisi was believed be the longest-serving nonviolent cannabis prisoner.
Fortunately DeLisa is now reunited with his family, instead of dying in prison, getting to meet his two granddaughters for the first time. "I'm a blessed human being, a survivor," DeLisi told the Associated Press, not wanting to dwell on resentments or lost time.
However, his 43-year-old son Rick DeLisa opened up about the ways in which his father’s incarceration destroyed their family and inflicted unamendable harm to him individually.
"It's just kind of like torment on your soul for 31 years," he told the AP. "I was kind of robbed of my whole life so I just appreciate that I can witness it, but on the other hand I feel like isn't somebody responsible? Is there somebody that can answer to this?"
DeLisa’s family spent over $250,000 on attorneys' fees and more than $80,000 on long-distance calls, since Rick now lives in Amsterdam. The younger DeLisa mourns the time lost under his father's brutal sentence.
"There's a feeling of who's responsible for this debt in my mind, and justice," Rick DeLisi said. "I don't mean debt with money. I mean something more valuable. Time. Something you can never get back."
The elder DeLisi plans to use his time advocating for the release of other prisoners using the organization FreeDeLisi.com.
"The system needs to change and I'm going to try my best to be an activist," he said.