Ashley is thrilled at the prospect of meeting her dad, Richard DeLisi. After becoming America's longest serving prisoner, he is getting out of jail to finally meet his daughter Ashley and what remains of his family.
She last saw her dad during her third birthday. When she sees him again, he will have completed 31 years of his severe 90-year prison sentence.
Unfortunately, Richard will not be lucky to see his wife and three of his kids ever again. They passed away while he was still in jail.
America's Longest Serving Prisoner
Richard found himself in jail after he was convicted for marijuana trafficking back in 1989. At the time he was put in prison, he was 40.
Now, after more than three decades in jail, he will finally be free. He is the longest-serving nonviolent prisoner in the country.
Richard was doing time in a Florida prison, the South Bay Correctional Facility (SBCF).
Meeting 5 Grandchildren For The First Time
And although he will not meet some of the family members he left behind when he went to jail, he will have the fortune of meeting five of his grandkids for the first time.
He was due for release in 2020, but thanks to the Last Prisoner Project and the pro bono assistance of a few lawyers, his release came early.
Richard was arrested along with his brother, Ted, for trafficking marijuana into Florida. And although the duo was given similar sentences of 98 years, Ted managed to get released in 2013.
It Will Be A Wonderful Experience
After his release, Richard will meet his two living children as well as five grandchildren he has never met before. He explained how wonderful it will be for him to finally meet his family:
"It feels amazingly wonderful to know that I will be home with my family and loved ones very soon."
He says that if he was given another chance, he would do things very differently:
"If I could go back to 1988 I would tell my former self to put more value in the time I spend with my family. I have learned that money is something that comes and goes but family is forever. I will take that lesson home with me and I will make the most of every moment I have left on this earth with my wonderful family."
"I am so excited to hug my children and grandchildren. 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."
Family Excited To See Him Again
Ashley, Richard's daughter, is also very happy about her father's release:
"I just want to hug my dad outside of prison. It is a sad truth that children of those who are incarcerated are also given a sentence."
His lawyers thought his release was long overdue. For a nonviolent offender, Richard should have been released ages ago, according to his attorney Chiara Juster:
"We participated in decarcerating someone who couldn't deserve it more. The fact that dear Richard is the longest serving non-violent cannabis offender currently incarcerated in our country is truly a sick indictment of our nation."
The lawyer thinks the sentence was not just his burden, but also his children's. But with his release, Ashley's dream of hugging her father will finally come true.
However, the coronavirus might have helped accelerate Richard's release. For one, he has several underlying chronic conditions.
One prisoner had already succumbed to the virus, and 431 others have already tested positive at the institution where Richard was locked up in. Throughout the state of Florida, 184 prisoners have already succumbed to COVID-19.
Despite the injustice of his sentence, Richard and his family are clearly appreciative of the chance to see him as a free man once more.