A newly released report offers ways Mississippi can reduce its prison population by half.
A national study released by the American Civil Liberties Union found Mississippi's prison population has grown 392 percent since 1980. The state Department of Corrections reports in June of 2018, there were more than 24,000 people in prison. Jennifer Riley Collins is with the ACLU of Mississippi. She says more than 12-thousand people are in county jails. Collins says 56 percent haven't been convicted of a crime, but can't afford bail while they await trial.
"If you can't afford to buy your freedom, then you sit in jail so the collateral consequences are the fact that people lose their houses, they lose their jobs, they lose their car and some even lose their children and families," said Collins.
Collins say if people in jail are not a threat to society, alternatives such as conducting risk assessments and using summons for court appearances can be used. She wants to revamp the state's bail system. State House Republican Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden says lawmakers passed prison reform legislation in 2014. The law has reduced the number of non-violent offenders in prison. Snowden thinks additional changes would have to be studied by a task force.
"We had everybody from the right and left the criminal defense people, the victim's rights people, the prosecutors, the police, law enforcement, everyone at the table to work through that, corrections and that was pretty much a year long process," said Snowden.
Jennifer Riley Collins says they plan to support a bill to change the state's bail system in the upcoming legislative session. The ACLU's report can be found on their website.