Dec. 10 (UPI) -- A Florida man who spent 31 years in prison -- the nation's longest prison time served for nonviolent cannabis crimes -- has been released from prison.
Richard DeLisi, now age 71, was released from South Bay Correctional Facility in Palm Beach County, Fla., on Tuesday, 18 months ahead of his scheduled release date, The Lakeland Ledger, part of the USA Today Network reported.
He had been sentenced in 1989 to 90 years in prison for nonviolent cannabis crimes.
"It actually feels like 10 times better than wonderful," DeLisi 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."
Late last month, a Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman told CNN he could be released as early as Dec. 4, though his release depended on several factors.
DeLisi was sentenced in 1989 on charges of racketeering, trafficking in cannabis and conspiracy after helping smuggle more than 100 pounds of marijuana from Columbia to Florida. Judge Dennis Maloney sentenced both him, and his older brother, Ted DeLisi, in a Polk County courtroom, to three consecutive 30-year sentences on similar charges.
The prison terms were longer than recommendations in judicial guidelines.
Ted DeLisi successfully appealed his conviction, prompting his release from prison in 2013, but Richard DeLisi's appeal was unsuccessful.
The Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit that advocates for ending prison sentences for cannabis offense, along with pro-bono attorneys, had advocated for clemency for DeLisi. Advocates also argued that he had multiple health issues and risked dying if he contracted COVID-19 in prison.
Still, the Florida Department of Corrections said the shortening of his prison sentence was unrelated to advocates' push for his release.
Instead, the department said that it resulted from a periodic review of inmate records and recent review of DeLisi's records that found that he had not been awarded 390 days of provisional release credits, DOC Press Secretary Kayla McLaughlin said in an email to The Ledger.
The review's findings adjusted his release date to May 13, 2021, according to McLaughlin.
DeLisi had forfeited 120 days of gain time for infractions, and he was able to restore that time since he was within 120 days of release, moving his release date to Tuesday, McLaughlin said.