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Lawmakers Look to Make Changes to Corrections System

By Daniel Cherry | Published 02 Oct 2012 05:29pm | comments
Mississippi lawmakers and corrections officials are looking into ways to reduce the number of residents going behind bars. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how the state's incarceration rate is among the highest in the nation.
 
Mississippi prisons are holding more than 22 thousand inmates and that number is expected to grow by nearly 700 this year. Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps believes the state is flirting with major problems within the prison system.
 
"The Federal Bureau of Prisons has 218,000 people locked up over 100 something facilities throughout the country. They are triple-bunking in low and medium security facilities. They may have to start triple-bunking in maximum security. We don't want to get Mississippi in that shape."
 
During a joint legislative hearing yesterday at the Capitol lawmakers met to hear concerns about the state's corrections system. Representative Charles Young Jr. of Meridian thinks locking up more residents is treating the symptoms and not the problem.
 
"We have statistics that denote that if we provide educational opportunities for our children, those children are less apt to become dropouts, less apt to become part of the Department of Corrections."
 
Judges and prosecutors also testified, their jobs are made harder because sentencing laws make it nearly impossible to know how long a convict will remain in prison. Representative Andy Gipson of Braxton, chairs the House Judiciary B Committee says his committee will examine corrections issues before the next session.
 
"My takeaway from this is, we're going to have to establish some kind of detailed task force to study these issues. Because we get into these sentencing laws...we really need to look at the system from the top down."
 
Gipson says it's important to cut overall cost to the state, but he stressed, maintaining public safety is top priority.

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