Bill seeks to reform the state’s criminal justice system

LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi legislature is discussing a bill that members hope will reform the state's criminal justice system. The new guidelines would reduce the prison population and costs associated with incarceration.

House Bill 585 seeks to standardize sentencing and parole guidelines across the board of Mississippi. A move that is being applauded by many, but not Jones County Assistant District Attorney J. Ronald Parrish.
"The basic term to describe all of it is bull crap," said Parrish. 

The bill says anyone convicted of a violent offense would be required to serve at least 50 percent of their sentence, and anyone convicted of a nonviolent offense would have to serve at least 25 percent.

"Our citizens who go off and serve in our armed forces who protect this country, they sign up and enlist for certain number of years, they don't get to get out in half the time they're obligated to do," said Parrish.  "If you want to commit a crime you ought to be obligated to do your time."

Reports say the proposed changes could reduce prison costs by $266 million, spread over 10 years. With Mississippi having the second-highest incarceration rate in the nation, legislators hope the bill will reduce the cost of corrections in Mississippi.

"I don't have a solution to the incarceration rate, but you know they either deserve to be there or they don't," said Parrish. "The best place for all this stuff that these guys have written up there would be a place that many people don't have any more, an out house because that's where it needs to go, down the toilet."

Only three senators voted against the latest version of the bill. The Brandon Board of Aldermen recently adopted a resolution opposing the bill because of concerns voiced by their district attorney and law enforcement. In addition, the sheriff of Lee County said the state sheriff's association does not support the legislation.

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