JACKSON, Mississippi – Building on comprehensive criminal justice legislation four years ago, Gov. Phil Bryant late last month signed a bill preventing incarceration for inability to pay fines and fees, expanding eligibility for parole release and supporting offenders on supervision.
Key features of House Bill 387 reduce incarceration’s footprint by ensuring that defendants’ inability to pay fines and court fees does not result in incarceration as a first response, and retroactively allowing parole eligibility for certain nonviolent offenders after serving 25 percent of their sentence. The bill also clarifies how long parolees and probationers can be re-incarcerated for technical violations, and directs parole and probation officers to arrange check-ins with individuals around their work schedules to prevent disruption and enhance reentry.
Signaling Mississippi’s continued interest in strengthening the justice system, HB 387 calls for a study of the number of people entering county jails and establishes a task force to study disparities in sentencing.
This year’s legislative action follows House Bill 585 signed into law in 2014 by Gov. Bryant. That comprehensive legislation aimed to ensure prison beds were focused on serious, violent offenders; increase access to alternatives to incarceration for lower-level, nonviolent offenders; and strengthen community supervision.
Since 2014, the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) has worked with agencies in Mississippi to implement the various components of HB 585. CJI applauds state leaders on continuing to improve Mississippi’s criminal justice system.