JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A controversial bill will come back up at the State Capitol this session. It’s been called an “anti-gang” bill. Some lawmakers are raising their hand to say they’ve tried to crackdown on the gang problem with legislation in the past.
“It shows you what we’ve been saying three years ago and that was that these were an issue," explained Sen. Brice Wiggins-R. "And by all accounts, the gangs are the problems that’s created this latest incident in MDOC.”
Sen. Brice Wiggins plans to file an anti-gang bill again this session. Previous versions of the bill from the Senate and House would’ve set penalties for luring people into gangs.
Another would’ve increased prison time for those tied to gang activities and one House version would’ve eliminated the possibility of early release for prisoners who are convicted of gang-related crimes. Wiggins says this year’s version is in the works.
“I’m not saying that that bill will be the panacea to solve it all but it’s part of a whole package we need to be looking at, including funding by the way to bring the salaries up for our DOC officers,” added Wiggins.
Rep. Bill Kinkade-R has been a co-author on similar version in the House in the past. He says they’ll also file again with some minor changes.
“Identifying what a gang is is the biggest thing," explained Kinkade. "A boy scout troop is not a gang, it’s a group. So, we just have to clean up some of the language... make it a little narrower on how we identify what a gang is.”
But Sen. Derrick Simmons-D says the push back will continue.
“I wouldn’t want to just pass legislation just because of what’s going on in our correctional facilities right now, and that legislation will end up hurting us more than we already are suffering,” noted Simmons.
Simmons says some members have feared the bill could lead to racial profiling and ultimately be a step back from the state’s previous prison reforms.
“The outcome would be increased prison population, longer prison sentences when the speculation may be false or misguided from the beginning,” Simmons explained.
We will continue to follow what happens with this legislation this session.