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We All Pay: Mississippi’s Harmful Habitual Laws

The Houser Family

We All Pay: Mississippi’s Harmful Habitual Laws

The Houser Family

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“That’s a life that was thrown away. A family that’s been torn apart.”

Paul Houser is currently serving what amounts to a life sentence due to the state’s extreme habitual penalties. For his son, Dusty, and the rest of Paul’s family — including a grandson who never really got an opportunity to know him — being indefinitely separated from Paul is a huge burden to bear.

The Housers are far from the only Mississippi family affected by these extreme laws. Long prison sentences have become the norm in Mississippi. First-time drug possession can land you in prison for 20 years. Stealing tools from a garage can result in 25 years behind bars.

Mississippi could prosper better if they weren't paying for all these people in prison.

On top of these extreme sentences, people can have extra years, decades, or even life imprisonment added to their sentences if they have previous convictions. When Paul was convicted of a minor drug offense, prosecutors used two old offenses, driven by his decades-long struggle with addiction, to sentence him to 60 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

As a result of these harmful laws, Mississippi currently has the third highest imprisonment rate in the country, and there are thousands of people — like Paul — serving extreme sentences due to the state’s habitual laws.

Habitual penalties have landed Mississippi in an incarceration crisis. And #WeAllPay. Please share the Houser’s story and learn more at

Paul Houser’s son, Dusty (Left), and grandson Kyler (right).