OFFENDERS: Improved re-entry preparation

Crime Stock This story is part of a package on justice overhaul.

The Mississippi justice system is fraught with uncertainty for offenders going through the court, imprisonment and re-entry process.

Many offenders don’t know when they’ll be released, whether at the end of their entire sentence or years before by way of parole. Inmates often are unready for re-entry into society at the time of parole, with 31 percent of all nonviolent offenders returning to prison within three years of release.

The proposed law would see inmates get pre-incarceration counseling to determine their needs. Each parole-eligible inmate would be given a case plan containing a number of programs and services they must complete, like alcohol treatment or certification courses, before being released.

The programs would be directed toward helping inmates readjust once released from prison.

Once the case plan is completed, behavioral requirements have been met and the minimum sentence has been served, inmates would be automatically paroled.

If an inmate re-offends or violates a technicality of parole, the parole board has a 21-day time limit to hold a hearing to decide if the inmate’s parole would be reinstated or revoked. The time limit would cut down on the number of MDOC inmates in county jails as well as give offenders a timeline.

Currently, when offenders have parole revoked, they are placed back in general prison population with habitual and serious offenders. The proposed law would have them go to lower security revocation centers for shorter, 90-, 120- and 180-day stays, as a punishment for violating parole.

JB Clark