JRI Year: 2014
In 2013, the Mississippi Legislature and then-Governor Phil Bryant established the bipartisan, interbranch Corrections and Criminal Justice Task Force and charged it with assessing the state’s criminal justice system and developing policy recommendations for consideration by the legislature. In the summer of 2013, the Task Force partnered with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Crime and Justice Institute to analyze Mississippi’s sentencing and corrections data and best practices from other states. Seven months later, the Task Force released a report with findings, including that Mississippi’s prison population had grown 17 percent during the prior decade and 307 percent in the past 30 years—making Mississippi the state with the second-highest imprisonment rate in the country.1
The Task Force developed 19 recommendations to create certainty in sentencing, control corrections costs, and ensure public safety. The recommendations included expanding judicial discretion to impose community supervision in lieu of prison, increasing the property value threshold for felony theft, restructuring drug sentences to reduce use of imprisonment for low-level drug offenses, and increasing the use of parole for individuals convicted of nonviolent offenses.2 The Task Force also recommended changes to strengthen community supervision. These recommendations included requiring the use of graduated sanctions in response to technical violations of community supervision and the use of evidence-based supervision practices intended to reduce recidivism.3 These recommendations were translated into House Bill 585, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by Governor Bryant in March 2014. To achieve the goals of the bill, Mississippi implemented multiple policy and practice changes.
Mississippi’s policy changes to focus prison space on people convicted of serious offenses led to a 22 percent decrease in the overall prison population; in addition, the portion of prison beds occupied by people convicted of violent offenses rose from 50 percent in 2014 to 64 percent by 2022.4 Mississippi also addressed growing admissions to prison from failures on community supervision by creating technical violation centers providing rehabilitative resources.5
For more information, see Justice Reinvestment: Mississippi.
JRI-Driven Policies and Practices
- Reclassify/redefine drug offenses
- Reclassify/redefine property offenses
- Establish/expand presumptive probation for some offenses
- Revise sentencing enhancements
- Reclassify/redefine offense class or offense level
- Revise parole hearings/decision/eligibility standards
- Expand good-time/earned-time prison credits/reentry leave
- Establish/expand geriatric or medical parole
- Establish/expand presumptive parole for qualifying cases
- Establish/expand earned discharge (probation/parole)
- Authorize administrative jail sanctions
- Authorize/develop/modify graduated responses or matrices for violations
- Cap revocation time
- Require evidence-based practices
- Require/improve risk-needs assessment
- Reform/establish specialty courts or diversion programs
- Require fiscal impact statements
- Require data collection/performance measures
- Improve restitution/victim notifications
- Establish/extend oversight council
- Establish/improve quality assurance/continuous policy improvement policies or practices
- Train justice system stakeholders on topics related to implementing legislation
- Standardize or assess use of best practices across the state
1 Mississippi Corrections and Criminal Justice Task Force, 2013, Final Report, Mississippi: Corrections and Criminal Justice Task Force, retrieved May 19, 2023 from https://www.mdoc.ms.gov/sites/default/files/2023-01/Dec%202013%20Final%20Report_Task%20Force.pdf.
2 Ibid., 13, 14, 15.
3 Ibid., 16.
4 Crime and Justice Institute, Justice Reinvestment Initiative: Prioritizing Prison Resources Where They Matter Most, Boston, MA: Crime and Justice Institute, retrieved May 19, 2023 from https://www.cjinstitute.org/assets/sites/2/2021/05/CJI-BJA-JRI-Prioritizing-Prison-Resources.pdf.
5 Chelsea Thompson and Samantha Harvell, 2019, Justice Reinvestment Initiative: Mississippi, Washington, DC: Urban Institute, retrieved May 19, 2023 from https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/2020/03/06/justice_reinvestment_initiative_jri_mississippi.pdf.