“Senate Bill (SB) 2795 — legislation that would significantly expand parole eligibility — passed with overwhelming support in both the House and the Senate...”
We started this year’s legislative session with a burgeoning sense of hope that in Mississippi we could finally begin to address our worsening prison crisis and get policies that would begin to reduce our state’s dangerously high prison population. We advocated for common-sense criminal justice reforms that would give thousands of people the opportunity to be reunited with their families and communities. After previous attempts to get meaningful reforms passed and falling short, this year felt like the year for new beginnings and possibilities — and it was. Senate Bill (SB) 2795 — legislation that would significantly expand parole eligibility — passed with overwhelming support in both the House and the Senate, making it crystal clear that our state lawmakers understood the need to begin to address our incarceration crisis.
Legislative leaders in both chambers prioritized criminal justice reform this session and worked hard to ensure SB 2795 made it over the finish line. On April 22, 2021, the Governor signed SB 2795 in law. The bill expands parole eligibility to thousands of incarcerated Mississippians and restores hope to them and their families. This is a significant step forward for criminal justice and a moment worth celebrating. As noted in a parole brief we released earlier this year, the state legislature effectively abolished parole in the mid-1990s. For years, nearly two-thirds of our prison population has been denied the opportunity for parole. It has been an uphill battle to re-establish parole eligibility in Mississippi. But this year we are one step closer to that goal!
Now, you may be wondering who is impacted by SB 2795. This bill will make people convicted of offenses classified as nonviolent eligible for a parole hearing after serving 25% of their sentence, or 10 years, whichever is less. This provision will be especially impactful for people serving decades-long sentences for drug convictions. SB 2795 also extends parole eligibility to people convicted of most offenses classified as violent, after they serve 50 percent of their sentence or 20 years, whichever is less. Research shows that long prison sentences do not make our communities safer. By extending parole eligibility to people who have been convicted of more serious offenses, our lawmakers are showing that they have a vested interest in keeping us safe, saving precious taxpayer dollars, and reuniting families.