The Mississippi Legislature wrapped up its first week of the 2022 session last week. Lawmakers in both the house and senate shared what they hope to accomplish this year in criminal justice policy.
Here's what lawmakers say they're focused on in criminal justice policy this year
Last year, Governor Tate Reeves signed new parole reform into law. This year, state senators and representatives say they hope to keep this momentum around criminal justice policies. Republican Senator Daniel Sparks, vice-chairman of the Senate Corrections committee, said lawmakers have more ideas about parole reform in 2022 going into the second week of the session.
"It is the commitment that we made in that parole bill that we were going to find a better solution and hopefully reduce recidivism and give opportunity and hope to those that are incarcerated," Sparks said
Under last year’s law, about 600 prisoners became eligible for parole. There are over 19,000 people incarcerated in the state. Senator Sparks said the committee plans to focus on re-entry partnerships between prisons, community colleges and workforce development programs.
"We’re looking for partners because when people come out of incarceration, there’s some difficulties there. If we’re going to offer parole and base it on metrics of completing training, have we actually provided that," Sparks said. "I think at times, we have failed to provide those properly and in good quantity."
In the other chamber, Democratic Representative Carl Mickens, vice-chair of the House Corrections committee, says he looks forward to working with his fellow lawmakers on solutions to combat Mississippi’s high prison population.
"We’re trying to relieve the prison system and not just release people out in society that shouldn’t be," Mickens said.
So far, there are 20 bills in the House Corrections committee, and the committee typically meets on Wednesdays at 10 AM.