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Criminal Justice Reforms Could Soon Be On Governor’s Desk

By Paul Boger | Published 17 Mar 2014 09:23pm | comments
A bill that would create a set of sweeping reforms in Mississippi's criminal justice system is another step closer to becoming law. MPB's Paul Boger reports the measure cleared the Senate, but members of the House say they want to take a closer look at the legislation.
A bill that makes changes to many areas of the state's criminal justice system could soon be on it's way to Governor Phil Bryant. The reforms which passed the Senate 47-4 yesterday, are among some of the most extensive in recent memory. Senator Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula is on the corrections committee.
"It is the most sweeping piece of legislation -- certainly in the criminal justice area -- that I think people can remember." said Wiggins. "I can tell you as someone who practiced for 10 years in that system, I think it addresses the issues that have been both on the defense side and the prosecution side and the the judges side about the cycle that we get into."
Under the bill, changes will be made to amount of jail time offenders will have to serve, who can receive non-prison punishments and increasing penalties for drug dealers while also focusing on rehabilitation for drug users.
However, members of the House we're not convinced the measure will continue to curb crime. Speaking on the floor of the House, Representative Mark Baker of Brandon says some law enforcement officials have voiced concerns over the bill.
"Every police chief in Rankin County, every mayor, the sheriff and the district attorney have serious concerns about this bill." said Baker. "I just want you to know that my DA and my sheriff they don't call me at the drop of a hat. I don't get a whole lot of pestering from them at all. When they call me, it's time to start taking notice."  
House Judiciary Chair Andy Gipson of Braxton says the proposal has received the approval of a number of prominent criminal justice organizations.
"As we moved through the process, we met with the Prosecutes Association." said Gipson. "We have their non-objection to this legislation. I can't help it if a DA in a particular county has a problem with it. Now you got on your desk a letter from the Police Chief's Association. They support this bill. Law enforcement supports this bill."
The House initially passed the measure, but later held it back for reconsideration. In a written statement, Governor Bryant said he looks forward to receiving the bill.




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