WASHINGTON, DC – FWD.us Mississippi State Director Alesha Judkins issued the following statement today on the advancement HB 1024, SB 2123, and HB 1377:
“FWD.us commends the Mississippi State Legislature for advancing critical criminal justice reform legislation. The state is in an incarceration crisis and needs bold, decisive reforms to address the systemic issues that plague its prisons. HB 1024, SB 2123, and HB 1377 safely curb one of the most serious drivers of Mississippi’s dangerously high prison population: extreme sentencing. These bills, which limit the state’s harmful habitual sentencing laws and expand parole eligibility, have successfully advanced from their chambers of origin and crossed over to the other side. Both bills could be improved with amendments that apply them to more individuals. We urge lawmakers to first improve upon and then vote for these common sense reforms to reduce the state’s prison population, restore hope inside prisons, and bring people safely home.”
Since December 29th, 27 people have died in the custody of the Department of Corrections, while the state has replaced Oklahoma as the 2nd highest imprisoner in the nation. The advancing bills include:
SB 2123 and HB 1377 expands parole eligibility to thousands of people who are ineligible for parole due to the 1990s amendments to the parole statute. It must be noted, however, that thousands of people in Mississippi prisons will still remain ineligible for parole under the current version of these bills, including people serving extreme sentences for nonviolent offenses handed down under the state’s habitual laws and all people serving life sentences. This legislation would be improved by expanding parole eligibility to all offense and sentence types.
HB 1024 limits the use of habitual life sentences for nonviolent crimes, ensures that prior convictions from the distant past cannot be used to lengthen a person’s sentence, and extends parole eligibility to some people currently serving habitual sentences. This legislation would be improved by also limiting “virtual life” sentences for nonviolent offenses, and expanding parole eligibility to even more people in prison currently serving these senselessly long sentences.