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MDOC’s budget request includes plans to raise staff pay, boost re-entry programs in FY2023
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Corrections Commissioner Burl Cain met before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Jan. 13 to request budget funds for Fiscal Year 2023.
Brittany Brown, MPB News

 The Mississippi Department of Corrections met before the Senate Appropriations Committee to request funds for their budget for Fiscal Year 2023. Commissioner Burl Cain is asking lawmakers for $410 million dollars to upgrade the state prison system. That’s up $57 million from last year.

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MDOC’s budget request includes plans to raise staff pay, boost re-entry programs in FY2023

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"This is the year that we have to have the funding to make the giant step to turn this department around," Cain said.

A major part of the commissioner's focus for the budget is re-entry programs, like workforce development. So far, MDOC is offering training for industries like welding, construction, HVAC, engine repair and more. Cain said job training programs for soon-to-be-released prisoners will help reduce recidivism.

"They’re going to have high skill and good paying jobs that can sustain their family and can make them not want to come back to prison," Cain said. "That’s what corrections is all about, correcting deviant behavior. Not lock and feed, torture and torment."

The commissioner also wants to increase the pay for correctional officers. Right now, correctional officers are paid $15 an hour. Cain said, last year the department only retained 40 percent of newly hired correctional officers, leaving MDOC understaffed. And in neighboring states, pay is higher.

"We go to Tennessee, they’re paying $20.19 an hour. You go to Alabama, they’re paying $20 an hour. And you go to Mississippi, we’re paying $15.38 an hour. We are inadequately financed and funded for salaries. We need to have a salary of $18.50 an hour," Cain said.

MDOC's budget request also shows that the department intends to use the additional funding to upgrade decades-old, deteriorating prison facilities. The commissioner wants to grow the gang disaffiliation and addiction treatment program in the newly reopened Walnut Grove Correctional Facility. This is all coming two years after the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation in Mississippi’s prisons.