One voice for the Office of Sheriff

Deputy Sheriff

Mississippi Enacts Legislation to Improve Public Safety, Ensure Certainty in Sentencing, and Control Corrections Costs

Between 1983 and 2013, Mississippi’s prison population grew by 300 percent to more than 22,400 inmates; without a change in policy, the state projected that the incarcerated population would grow by 1,951 inmates at a cost of $266 million over 10 years. With the assistance of The Pew Charitable Trusts, Mississippi conducted an extensive review of data which revealed that nonviolent offenders and those revoked for probation or parole violations accounted for a large and growing share of Mississippi’s prison population. In addition, a 28 percent increase in sentence lengths from 2002 to 2012 led to longer average prison stays, even while the percent of the sentence served by Mississippi offenders dropped by 22 percent. Finally, courts had few alternatives at their disposal for lower-level nonviolent offenders. In response, state policymakers developed recommendations aimed at refocusing prison space on violent and career criminals, strengthening community supervision, and ensuring certainty and clarity in sentencing. These recommendations were codified in H.B. 585, which passed with large bipartisan majorities in both legislative chambers and was signed into law by Governor Phil Bryant on March 31, 2014. This legislation is expected to avert all of Mississippi’s projected prison growth over the coming decade, saving taxpayers $266 million in prison expenditures, and restoring certainty and clarity to Mississippi’s sentencing system. The savings achieved will allow corrections dollars to be redirected into community supervision and programs proved to reduce recidivism. More information on Mississippi’s reforms can be found here.