After bills vetoed, questions loom regarding future prison reform in Mississippi

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 8:34 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Last week, Governor Tate Reeves vetoed two prison reform bills. The bills promised to free up space in prisons by letting some offenders out early.

Some say that would have opened resources and funding for programs for rehabilitation of inmates.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey has been outspoken against the proposed prison reform bills. He says they could have put dangerous criminals back into Mississippi communities.

He wants the state to put more money into rehabilitation programs in prison, to give offenders a second chance.

Sheriff Bryan Bailey said, “They siphon money from HB 585. Millions and millions of dollars from MDOC that should’ve been reinvested. They took it and put it to other parts of the state budget. They steadily cut MDOC’s budget. Now, if people would open their eyes, checked the fax, they were approximately 50% short on employees.”

The bills would have allowed non-violent offenders to be eligible for parole after serving just 25% of their sentence. Violent offenders would have been eligible for parole after 50% of their sentence was served, or after 20 years, whichever is less.

Two-thousand inmates would have been eligible for release.

J. Robertson of Empower Mississippi said, “What this bill would’ve done is freed up some of those resources and allowed them to be reinvested into programming that actually works, but a state like Mississippi simply can’t afford to maintain the second highest prison population in the country.”

Sheriff Bailey says he started a trustee program years ago and has dozens of success stories. He feels if the state cuts too many felons loose, it’s local jails that will be burdened if the offenders are arrested again without the tools to re-adapt into society.

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