“Mississippi isn’t able to accommodate the nearly 20,000 people in its care and custody safely, which is why state officials must take bold, immediate action before it’s too late.”
Since December of 2019, forty-one incarcerated people have died in Mississippi prisons. That’s thirty-nine lives senselessly lost, families without their loved ones, and an extremely painful reminder of how Mississippi’s incarceration crisis is devastating families across the state.
On top of these tragic and avoidable deaths, COVID-19 has reached Mississippi prisons, further imperiling the lives of incarcerated people. And, because the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) has tested fewer than 40 incarcerated people for COVID-19, the rate of infection is likely much higher than what is currently being reported. In fact, a new FWD.us report estimates that nearly every single person currently in MDOC custody is likely to become infected with the virus, and 186 people will die if no action is taken to reduce the prison population. Clearly, Mississippi isn’t able to accommodate the nearly 20,000 people in its care and custody safely, which is why state officials must take bold, immediate action before it’s too late.
There are many reasons why Mississippi’s jails and prisons are bursting at the seams, one being Mississippi’s harmful habitual sentencing laws that allow prosecutors to add extra years, decades, or even life imprisonment to people’s sentences if they have ever been convicted of crimes in the past. People with habitual sentences are particularly vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 in the current crisis. These individuals are serving very long prison terms with no opportunity for parole or other forms of release, meaning that they are aging behind bars in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.