JACKSON, MS – Today, FWD.us released new research outlining the history of parole in Mississippi and underscoring the need for immediate action to expand parole eligibility during the 2021 legislative session:
The research shows that two out of three people in Mississippi’s prisons are currently not eligible for parole due to a dramatic curtailing of the use of parole that happened during a rash of punitive lawmaking that swept the country in the 1990s. Although some measures have been taken to correct this misguided strategy, the vast majority of people in prisons across the state – more than 12,000 individuals – remain ineligible for a parole hearing.
Last year, Mississippi lawmakers demonstrated support for a bill that would have increased the number of Mississippians eligible for parole hearings. However, the bill was vetoed due to misinformation. “It has been more than a decade since Mississippi lawmakers have taken any meaningful action on parole reform in Mississippi,” said Alesha Judkins, Mississippi State Director at FWD.us. “That inaction has led to millions of taxpayer dollars being wasted and thousands of families torn apart – all without making our communities any safer.”
Like the habitual laws highlighted in earlier research from FWD.us, Mississippi’s restrictive parole laws are a major driver of the state’s dangerously high prison population. The prison population doubled between 1994, the final year in which most people in prison were eligible for parole, and 2008. That dramatic increase has left Mississippi with the second highest imprisonment rate in the nation.
“Eighty-five of the more than 100 people who have died in Mississippi prisons last year were there because of Mississippi’s punitive parole and habitual laws,” said Judkins. “The reforms that failed to pass last year could have saved many of their lives. It is imperative for the legislature to finish what they started and enact parole and habitual reforms this session.”
The full parole brief can be downloaded here.