The earlier this week, both the Mississippi House and Senate passed the final version of House Bill 585. However, the house held the bill further debate.
The bill requires anyone convicted of a violent offense to serve at least 50 percent of a sentence. Nonviolent convicts would have to serve at least 25 percent. Current Mississippi law requires 85% of a prison sentence to be completed. Since the 85% mandatory sentence law passed in the mid-90s, Mississippi’s incarceration rate has increased to now the second-highest in the nation, only behind Louisiana.
Moreover, under the bill, judges will have more latitude in fashioning alternative sentences. For example, judges could craft drug and alcohol treatment rather than standard incarceration.
Estimates provide that the changes could cut prison costs by $266 million over the next 10 years if passed.
The legislation was supported by the Mississippi Bar Association, the Mississippi Economic Council, Christian Action Commission, Mississippi Police Chiefs and the Justice Fellowship.