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Prison Reform Could Be Focus of Next Legislative Session
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Governor Phil Bryant speaks with Special Agent Daniel McMullen
Mississippi's prison costs are on track to increase $266 million over the next decade. MPB's Paul Boger reports on what state officials are doing to curb the increase in spending and make law enforcement more efficient in Mississippi.
Mississippi has one of the highest imprisonment rates in the nation, and it's growing. A report released by the Pew Charitable Trust says the state currently houses more than 22,600 prisoners. If things don't change, that number is expected to grow to nearly 25,000 by 2024.
State officials are dedicating next year's legislative session to reforming Mississippi's criminal justice system to be more effective and efficient.
Attorney General Jim Hood said the state could cut spending on corrections by creating rehabilitation and education programs
"Where we have not spent our money is where we can go in and change the ways those prisoners act after they get out." said Hood. "That's rehabilitation; that's placing them where they get job skills. They've got to pay for their rent to be out. They've got to be on an ankle bracelet. They have to get counseling at night whether be it drug, mental health or religious type counseling. Those are the cheapest run facilities because they don't have fences and they learn job skills, and so if they mess up they go back to incarcerated. So, they have a good reason to learn."
Governor Phil Bryant agrees with Hood, and said the state's current system is dated and could use reform.
"Now, our idea in the past was to just move these people away; to put them in jail." said Bryant. "I think there is opportunity now as our treatment programs are advanced. People understand now that the dynamics and the science of an addictive personality. We always thought 'just quit taking drugs.' Some people can't do that, but unfortunately some people are going to commit violent crimes. That's what prisons are for."
While Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey agrees something needs to be done about the states high rate of incarceration, but believes Mississippians still want to feel safe. 
"I believe the citizens and the taxpayers of the county -- that I've talked to -- they have no problem paying more taxes for more prison beds." said Bryan.
Mississippi has the second highest imprisonment-rate in the nation, behind Louisiana.