Mississippi legislature advances parole reform

The House and Senate advanced legislation today that will provide parole eligibility for new categories of offenses. Senate Bill 2795, sponsored by Sen. Juan Barnett, now awaits the signature of Gov. Tate Reeves before becoming law after easily clearing both chambers.

“We all know the problems with Mississippi’s justice system and the legislature has again responded with smart policy solutions,” said Steven Randle, the Director of Justice and Work for Empower Mississippi. “Our outdated and ineffective laws play a major role in our current prison crisis and we know no inaction is not a strategy. We can protect public safety, be smart on crime, soft on taxpayers, and provide second chances to those who deserve them. This legislation is a step in the right direction.”

By providing parole eligibility to new individuals, the state can create incentives for good behavior and rehabilitation in prison and to safely alleviate the pressure of overcrowding in Mississippi’s prisons.

Mississippi presently has the second highest rate of incarceration in the nation, a dubious distinction that carries with it exorbitant costs to taxpayers, a history of scandal and violent deaths, and a pending Department of Justice investigations that could result in a federal takeover. Part of the problem is that Mississippi lags behind many conservative states, like Texas, when it comes to its parole program — offering fewer opportunity for early release for prisoners who have proven rehabilitation.

A wide variety of conservative organizations as well as religious leaders have called for justice reforms. Along with Empower Mississippi, this includes the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Prison Fellowship, the United Pentecostal Church, Mississippi Offender Reentry Experience, Clergy for Prison Reform, Americans for Tax Reform, American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, R Street, and Stand Together.