JACKSON, MS – Rounds Consulting Group released an economic analysis today, commissioned by FWD.us, that outlines the potential fiscal impact of broad parole reforms in Mississippi and shows hundreds of millions in savings that lawmakers could be leaving on the table by pursuing narrow reforms:
As Mississippi lawmakers debate the future of the state’s economy, Mississippi Parole Reforms: Savings & Economic Opportunities makes clear that changes to the state’s parole system would provide substantial fiscal savings and increases in revenue. However, the magnitude of the economic impact will depend heavily on how ambitious the legislation is. Mississippi currently has some of the most restrictive parole laws in the nation. Reforms that align Mississippi with most other states by broadly expanding parole eligibility could save the state more than $1 billion, but lawmakers are currently considering less ambitious legislation that would generate far less savings.
“Mississippi could save between $880 million and $1.4 billion in the next 30 years by broadly expanding parole eligibility,” said Jim Rounds, president of Rounds Consulting Group, Inc. (RCG), the conservative Arizona-based firm that conducted the research for FWD.us. “Less ambitious legislation will yield up to 34 percent lower cost savings and tax revenue, which is effectively leaving hundreds of millions in savings on the table.”
Reform policies under consideration this session provide only narrow additions to eligibility for parole. The additional fiscal savings from legislation expanding parole eligibility more broadly, like the policies in last year’s Senate Bill 2123, could be invested to meet the urgent needs of the state, such as building more rural healthcare facilities, repairing roads and bridges, and investing more in K-12 education.
“Parole reforms that broadly expand eligibility are in line with research showing that opportunities like parole eligibility for people in prison make us all safer, and are a great opportunity to save Mississippi taxpayers’ money,” said Laura Bennett, Research Manager for Criminal Justice Reform at FWD.us. “This report clearly shows that expanding parole eligibility would help to safely reduce the dangerously high prison population and free up hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds for lawmakers to invest in any number of important areas so that Mississippi communities thrive.”
Some of the key points highlighted in the report include:
- Parole reforms with broad eligibility, like those passed and later vetoed last year, have a significantly larger impact on prison cost savings and increased tax revenue than reforms with narrow eligibility like those being considered this year. Mississippi currently has some of the most restrictive parole laws in the nation, and two-thirds of people in prison today are ineligible for a parole hearing. Reforms that bring Mississippi in line with most other states by broadly expanding parole eligibility could generate as much as $1.4 billion in economic benefits over the next 30 years, while reforms with narrow eligibility would generate as little as $584 million, a significantly lower total economic benefit.
- Mississippians released from prison after a hearing in front of the Parole Board would have more time and resources to enhance their economic prosperity and contribute to the local economy and community instead of remaining in the prison system. Once back in the workforce, formerly incarcerated Mississippians can generate additional tax revenue benefits to the state beyond the prison cost savings.
- Prison cost savings generated by parole reforms could advance Mississippi’s annual rate of job growth from 1.0% to between 1.015% and 1.02%. The additional state tax revenues generated by this minor advancement in the state’s rate of job growth would be a major economic benefit for the state.