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Deadline Day to Pass Bill That helps Non-Violent Offenders

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Deadline Day to Pass Bill That helps Non-Violent Offenders
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Mississippi Penitentiary

Today's the deadline to pass a bill out of a Mississippi Senate committee that could help non-violent offenders get back on their feet. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

In 2005, Kamal Karriem a former Columbus city councilman pleaded guilty to embezzlement. He spent two years in prison and 8 on parole for loaning someone a city-owned phone who ran up a $500 bill. Karriem says he was pastoring a church before he went to prison and wanted to return to the ministry but finding a job was daunting.

"I went to 43 vacancies in North Mississippi and was rejected by all 43 because of my criminal record. On the 44th one God blessed me to be able to pastor a church again," said Karriem.

Karriem hopes HB 175, authored by his brother House Democrat Kabir Karriem of Columbus and House Republican Tracy Arnold of Booneville will encourage employers to hire non-violent felons. The bill would give employers a $2,500 tax credit per employee for four years. Representative Arnold.

"This will create an incentive of $2,500 per year up to four years, which accumulates to $10,000. It's got a 1.5 million dollar cap on it which will bring about 600 participants in the program to start with. It saves the state $12 million the first year," said Arnold.

HB175 passed the House and it's in the Senate Finance Committee. Republican Senator Joey Fillingane of Sumrall is the chair. He likes the concept but isn't sure the measure will be voted out committee.

"Now whether the tax credit is the best most efficient way of accomplishing that goal or not would certainly be something we would have to sit down and study and think about," said Fillingane.

More than 32,000 Mississippians are on parole or probation according to the state Department of Correction's website.