Why is parole eligibility a good idea?
Decades of research have shown that parole is a smart policy that can help states safely reduce their prison populations, protect families, and save taxpayer dollars. Many studies have found that shorter prison stays do not lead to an increase in crime and that incentives for opportunities like parole release make prisons and communities safer. On top of that, prisons can cause great harm to incarcerated people and their families, especially as the deadly COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread behind bars. Eighty-five of the more than 100 people that have died in prison over the course of the last year were not eligible for parole. At least four of these individuals would have become immediately eligible for a parole hearing if last year’s reform legislation had been signed into law. For these individuals, a parole hearing could have meant the difference between life and death.
Where are parole laws more expansive?
Despite what we know about the benefits of parole eligibility, Mississippi has some of the most restrictive parole laws in the nation. Nearly all of Mississippi’s neighboring Southern states allow parole eligibility for people convicted of serious and violent offenses. For example, people convicted of serious and violent offenses in Arkansas become eligible for parole after serving between 33% and 70% of their sentence. In Texas, those individuals become eligible for a parole hearing after serving 50% of their sentence or 30 years, whichever comes first.