JACKSON, MS – FWD.us Policy Manager Laura Bennett issued the following statement today on “The Criminal Justice Reform Act” (HB 1352):
“We were disappointed to see the conference committee weaken the Criminal Justice Reform Act prior to final passage. Despite those changes, this legislation includes several important reentry reforms that will help Mississippians with criminal convictions find and maintain work. It will expand eligibility for expungement to most non-violent felonies, ban driver’s license suspensions for non-driving-related offenses, and allow people convicted of drug-related felonies to qualify for workforce training and basic access to nutrition for their families. However, the bill is too narrow in scope, and some provisions exclude low-income Mississippians who are the most likely to be ensnared by the criminal justice system. Furthermore, this legislation does nothing to address Mississippi’s third-in-the-nation incarceration rate. Mississippians will continue dedicating hundreds of millions of their hard-earned dollars to an unjust system that devastates families and communities across the state without improving public safety. This legislation is a step forward, but falls far short of the ambitious reforms needed to address a problem of this magnitude.
“Other promising criminal justice reforms failed during this legislative session. In particular, the veto of HB 666, legislation that would have prevented the jailing of 10- and 11-year-olds, is a disgrace. Mississippians deserve better. We urge Governor Bryant to utilize every option possible to address the state’s incarceration crisis, including the use of his administrative authority. Additionally, the legislature must prioritize sentencing and pretrial reforms in 2020 to begin the work of addressing Mississippi’s rising incarceration rate. We are hopeful that lawmakers will commit to building on the progress made with the passage of HB 1352 to enact the bold reforms needed to change the trajectory of Mississippi’s incarceration crisis.”