Wanted to make sure you saw the editorial in the Daily Journal entitled “Recidivism deserves continued attention.”
Over the past few weeks, Governor Phil Bryant took positive action to reform Mississippi’s criminal justice system by signing into law House Bill 387, which aims to reduce recidivism by prohibiting the use of jail for nonpayment of fees and fines, among other reforms.
While HB 387 is a critically important set up of reforms, much more work remains to safely drive down the state’s incarceration rate. Unfortunately, on Friday, April 13, Governor Bryant vetoed Senate Bill 2841, which would have provided a long overdue correction to Mississippi’s broken reentry system. This bill was voted unanimously out of the Legislature, and received overwhelming support from across the political and ideological spectrum.
In the wake of this veto, and in order to build upon the great work that has been done, Mississippi’s politicians must continue to work together to pass meaningful reforms to improve the state’s criminal justice system.
Daily Journal // OUR OPINION: Recidivism deserves continued attention
OUR OPINION: Recidivism deserves continued attention
Mississippi took a step in the right direction last week when legislation seeking to combat recidivism by eliminating what’s commonly referred to as a debtors’ prison was signed into law.
That legislation is part of bipartisan efforts to make changes to Mississippi’s criminal justice system with the goal of reducing the levels of incarceration – particularly for non-violent offenders – throughout the state, as reported by the Daily Journal’s Bobby Harrison.
Last week, Gov. Phil Bryant hosted a ceremonial bill signing for House Bill 387, which aims to reduce recidivism by preventing people from being incarcerated because of their inability to pay fees and fines if they are found to be indigent, allows people to check in with probation officers and other court personnel via such computer technology as Skype so that they do not miss work and establishes a task force to study the issue of sentencing disparities.
The proposal signifies broad efforts to reduce the state’s incarcerated population and is followup legislation to the major sentencing reforms made in 2014 legislation. That legislation, among other things, gives judges more discretion in handing down sentences – especially as it related to non-violent offenders.
Another bill that included some other valuable benefits, however, was vetoed due to one major item.
Bryant announced Monday that he had vetoed Senate Bill 2841 stating it would cause a financial hardship to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
The bill would have erased the discretion of department employees or judges to grant hardship waivers for offenders who say they’re too poor to pay $55-a-month fees while on probation, parole or other supervision, as reported by the Associated Press.
The bill would have made waivers automatic for those fitting the federal definition of poverty. The AP reported Bryant said the current process has worked, and granting more waivers could cost the Department of Corrections millions of dollars.
Bryant acknowledged his regrets that his veto was killing other parts of the bill, including expansion of treatment options for people supervised by drug courts and suspension of driver’s licenses for drug convictions unrelated to driving.
Various groups as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union and the conservative Americans for Prosperity have gotten behind the efforts to prevent poor people from being incarcerated or facing other penalties for their inability to pay fines and fees.
We urge legislators to continue examining and discussing these important issues, especially seeking to revive the items that were eliminated in the veto of the second piece of legislation.
Measures like these can go a long way in helping curb or reduce recidivism altogether, a goal all Mississippians should share.