PRISONS, JAILS: A path to less overcrowding

Jail-BarsThis story is part of a package on justice overhaul.

The proposed law initially would increase the Mississippi prison population with true minimum sentences, designed to make sure all inmates serve a stated portion of their sentence.

But with increased and standardized parole eligibility, fewer nonviolent inmates would stay in prison for prolonged periods of time, helping to clear space in the state’s already overcrowded prisons.

The task force recommended offenders be automatically paroled once they complete their case plan, meet their behavioral requirements and complete their minimum sentence. The automatic parole system would reduce the backlog before the state’s parole board as well as move offenders through the system effectively and consistently.

Nonviolent offenders who are over 60 years of age who have served 10 years of their sentence would automatically receive a parole hearing, which if they are released could create prison space and reduce high medical costs.

Increased alternative sentencing options would also give judges the opportunity to place nonviolent offenders in programs outside of the state’s prisons, helping to lower the population and keep those offenders away from more serious criminals.

At the county level, offenders who violate parole would not be allowed to be held in county jails more than 21 days while awaiting a parole hearing or Mississippi Department of Corrections decision. The time limit would reduce the cost of housing state inmates at the county level and create space in those jails for lower level offenders.

JB Clark