JACKSON, MS – FWD.us Mississippi State Director Alesha Judkins issued the following statement today in response to the newly announced Department of Justice investigation into conditions in Mississippi prisons:
“Our hearts are with the families of the 15 people who have died in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections since December 29, and with the 16th man currently on life support. That these conditions have now captured the attention of the federal Department of Justice is further evidence of the dire need to address conditions of confinement, and advance reforms aimed at immediately decreasing the state’s dangerously high prison population.
“Mississippi has failed to adequately address its incarceration crisis adequately for decades. In fact, the state’s prison population skyrocketed 400% over the past 20 years. A hard look at the conditions of the state’s prisons must be paired with a hard look at the outdated and extreme sentencing laws, which in large part are the reason Mississippi continues to find itself in this crisis, and which are not working to protect Mississippians on either side of the prison walls. Failed policies like extreme sentences do not improve public safety in the community, and are directly responsible for a prison population so large that the state is unable to safely house and supervise the people in its care and custody.
“We are calling for reduced sentences to the state’s harmful habitual laws, expanded earned time, parole, and commutations. In red and blue states across the country, Republican and Democratic elected leaders are working together on these kinds of criminal justice reforms, and the reasons to do so now in Mississippi are more urgent than ever.
“We all pay for Mississippi’s incarceration crisis – families, communities, and taxpayers – but the costs have never been higher than they are today and the time is now for lawmakers to lead on reform.”