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Corrections Bill Passes House

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 11 Feb 2014 09:56am | comments
rep. Charles Young

Mississippi is taking the first steps toward an overhaul of its corrections system. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that proponents say it will save the state millions, but others fear the opposite will happen....

The bill includes features that are intended to slow the growing size and cost of the state's prison population.

Currently, around 22-thousand Mississippians are in prison costing the state 300-million dollars a year.

The measure, which passed the house overwhelmingly includes steps to ensure that violent offenders serve half their sentence and non-violent offenders serve a quarter...but at the same time giving judges discretion to give alternative sentences.

The bill's main author Representative Andy Gipson of Braxton said on the floor of the house the package should save the state over 250-million dollars over ten years.

"We are doing several thing. Promoting public safety. Yes, we are trying to find prison alternatives for some people who would qualify but at the same time focusing our efforts on the serious crimes that need to be punished. And making sure we have beds available to put the hardcore criminals in prison and keep them there," Gipson said.

But there  were a number of questions about the stronger setences for people considered drug traffickers.

Representative Charles Young of Meridian held up a small flip phone to demonstrate how low the amounts are that would constitute drug trafficking.

"Both of us agree this is not a large phone. But under our classification for trafficking this phone would cause the amount of drugs this size for something of this size would constitute 40 years under this current schematic," Young said.

Still, there seems to be agreement between Republicans and Democrats about the package as a whole.

Representative Ed Blackmon, a Democrat from Canton, highlighted a portion of the bill that would give leniency to people who violate their parole for minor or accidental reasons.

"This will give some discrection for the court when there is a 'I was confused. I didn't know. I couldn't get a hold of someone' Those kind of things if it is believable to come into play," Blackmon said.

The house bill now moves to the senate...a similar companion bill is already awaiting consideration in that chamber.

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rep. Charles Young


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