Mississippi Lawmakers Urged to Improve and Advance Legislation to Safely Reduce Prison Populations

New analysis highlights Mississippi’s urgent need to pass parole expansion laws to save taxpayers money and help Mississippi families.

JACKSON, MS —The Mississippi State Legislature has reconvened at an urgent moment for both the state and the nation as communities across the country are reckoning with the harms caused by the nation’s criminal justice system. In Mississippi, more than 40 people have died in state prisons since December 2019, and COVID-19 continues to put thousands of incarcerated Mississippians at grave risk of illness and death. These events compound Mississippi’s decades-long, ongoing incarceration crisis, which has recently led to the state surpassing Oklahoma to become the second-highest imprisoning state in the U.S.

Today, nearly two-thirds of people currently incarcerated in Mississippi prisons are not eligible for parole. FWD.us released a new analysis of parole legislation demonstrating that these bills, if improved and expanded, will significantly reduce Mississippi’s prison population, restoring hope for thousands behind bars, reuniting them with their families, and saving the state millions in taxpayer spending during a time of acute economic crisis.

“As Mississippians and people across the country continue to reel from the harms of a criminal justice system that is far too large, too expensive, and too punitive, Mississippi lawmakers must prioritize long overdue calls for meaningful prison reforms,” said Alesha Judkins, Mississippi State Director at FWD.us. “The need has never been more urgent to improve and advance the critical criminal justice reform legislation introduced this year. These bills would extend parole eligibility to many individuals who have long been denied that opportunity, reduce Mississippi’s dangerously high prison population, and preserve scarce taxpayer resources during a time of economic hardship.”

We urge Mississippi lawmakers to improve and pass HB 1377, along with other critical criminal justice reform bills like HB 1024, before the end of the legislative session. View the full analysis here.

Background on the Impact Analysis
A new analysis from FWD.us shows that HB 1377, if passed in its current form, would reduce Mississippi’s prison population by roughly 3,100 by allowing currently incarcerated Mississippians to be released on parole and save the state over $45 million in reduced prison spending. The bill would also apply to people sentenced to prison in the future. Over time, we expect this bill to save roughly 220 additional prison beds related to future admissions, which equates to $3.2 million in reduced prison costs annually.

However, these impacts could be greatly increased if the bill, which has been watered down during the legislative process, were expanded to include provisions from the original version of the bill that have since been removed. If improved and expanded , HB 1377 could positively impact more imprisoned people and their families and save tens of millions of additional taxpayer dollars. Applying the improved bill’s provisions retroactively would lead to a short-term prison population decrease of nearly 5,000 and savings of over $72 million, a 59% increase in impact. When accounting for people sentenced to prison in the future, the expanded bill would reduce the prison population by an additional 325 beds, saving $4.7 million annually.

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