High Cost, Low Return: Mississippi's Ongoing Incarceration Crisis

How we got here and why we still have work to do

Mississippi’s prison population has grown 396% between 1980 and 2022. It currently has the highest imprisonment rate in the world. Despite recent reforms, the Mississippi prison population continues to increase because those reforms were not fully implemented and were too limited for Mississippi to see the same sustained decline in the state’s prison population that other states have experienced. Mississippi’s growing prison population imposes high costs on the state’s economy, communities and families without improving public safety. State lawmakers must continue to make critically needed and evidence-based criminal justice reforms a priority every legislative session and work with criminal justice practitioners to ensure past reforms are fully implemented.

Mississippi's high prison population is driven in large part by its use of habitual sentences.



Long prison sentences have become the norm in Mississippi. First-time drug possession can land you in prison for 20 years. Stealing tools from a garage can result in 25 years behind bars. On top of these already extreme sentences, people can have extra years, decades, or even life imprisonment added to their sentences if they have ever been convicted of crimes in the past because of the state’s habitual laws.

Learn how these extreme penalties keep families apart and hold the state back.

We want to hear from you

At FWD.us, we believe that incarcerated people and their families know what is needed to end Mississippi’s incarceration crisis. If you or someone in your life has been incarcerated in Mississippi, please consider filling out a short survey to get in touch. If you have a loved one that is currently incarcerated that would like to share their own story, please email ms-stories@fwd.us, and we will mail a survey form to their facility.

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Criminal Justice Reform in Mississippi

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The Hollins Family

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The Houser Family

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FWD.us Statement on the Passage of “The Criminal Justice Reform Act”

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FWD.us Statement on Senate Passage of “The Criminal Justice Reform Act”

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FWD.us Statement on “The Criminal Justice Reform Act”

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FWD.us Statement on Mississippi House Bill 387

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