Black youth in Miss. make up nearly 85% of all youth prison admissions, report says

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Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 12:55 PM CST

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - An unreasonable number of Black youth are incarcerated in Mississippi, and it’s costing taxpayers more than annual tuition rates, according to a report by a Washington, D. C., human rights organization.

The SPLC Action Fund report, Disposable Children: Juveniles with Long Prison Sentences, says since 2007, Black youth in Mississippi have made up for nearly 85% of all youth prison admissions in the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC).

Also, detaining a person in an MDOC facility costs an average of $18,480 for one year, compared to nearly half that amount at two Mississippi universities, the report said.

Here are specific highlights of the report:

  • As of November 2021, there are 1,181 people currently incarcerated in MDOC prisons who were arrested and detained before age 18.
  • Youth locked up in adult prisons are twice as likely to be beaten by prison staff, five times more likely to be sexually assaulted and 36 times more likely to attempt suicide.
  • Out of those incarcerated as juveniles, 68 have been in prison for at least 20 years – collectively costing the state more than $1.2 million a year.
  • The expense of detaining a person in a MDOC facility for one year ($18,480) is more than a year’s in-state tuition at Ole Miss and Mississippi State University combined ($18,044).

“How we treat the youth is an investment into our own futures. By expanding parole eligibility for juvenile offenders, the state is giving them a timely chance that extends the opportunity for them to responsibly navigate society through academics or job training,” said SPLC Action Fund Regional Analyst Delvin Davis, the author of the report.

Davis said policy leaders in Mississippi have an opportunity to create real change in the juvenile justice system by investing in anti-recidivism efforts.

“This provides the tools necessary for these children to return to society in a way that positively impacts the community. This can only be done through reevaluation of how these youths are sentenced,” he added.

The report also includes recommendations for policymakers to evaluate the sentencing given to youth and expand parole eligibility to incarcerated youth while also exploring the fiscal benefit that minimizing sentencing would have on the state.

“The 68 people in Mississippi who were arrested as juveniles and have served at least 20 years in prison cost the state over $1.2 million every year they are incarcerated. Expanding parole eligibility for this small portion of the prison population is potentially a low-risk opportunity to create a significant cost savings for Mississippi,” the report outlined.

These savings could be reinvested into other anti-recidivism efforts - such as job training, educational courses and support counseling - that SPLC says could yield more successful reentries into communities.

See other recommendations in the full report below.

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