Mississippi Maintains High Incarceration RateBy Lawayne Childrey | Published 15 Jan 2013 06:45pm |
Mississippi's prison population has increased by more than 1,000 inmates over the past two years. That's according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports what the state’s top corrections officer says is driving the increase and how he hopes the problem can be abated.
U.S. Department of Justice officials say only three states, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi have incarceration rates at or above 650 per one hundred thousand residents. Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps attributes several key factors to the high numbers.
"One is teenage pregnancy. We got some dropout issues because the inmates are coming to us on the 6th grade reading, writing and arithmetic level. And then that problem that's all over the country alcohol and drugs. 77.6% of our inmates have alcohol and drug problems or use. And so all of those factors when you put them all in a tool box, you just got a gambit."
Epps is asking lawmakers to consider alternatives to incarceration, especially for non violent offenders. He says one way is by diverting a greater number of low risk offenders from prisons, reducing the time low risk offenders are in prison or a combination of the two.
"They look at a crime like larceny and they say ok instead of sending this person to prison let’s put this person on house arrest, electronic monitor where we can watch them every time he takes a step. And lets raise the fine and restitution, hit 'em in their pocket and way we can satisfy the victim and we can divert 'em from prison."
Epps says on average it cost the state of Mississippi $42 dollars per day to house an inmate. However, he says that amount would be decreased to $10 dollars if the inmate is contained at home. Lawayne Childrey, MPB News.
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