Mississippi now ranks third in the nation, behind Louisiana and Texas, in its rate of incarceration. With 21,724 people in prison – a 166 percent increase from the 8,000 offenders in 1990 – Mississippi is spending $292 million a year to warehouse this ever-expanding group of prisoners, says the Jackson Clarion-Ledger in an editorial. State legislators in 1995 adopted the so-called “85 percent rule,” requiring convicts to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before being eligible for parole. Other states applied the rule only to violent offenders.
Providing “three hots and a cot” for 22,000 state prisoners is draining needed state tax dollars from public education and public health care, says the newspaper. Warehousing non-violent offenders isn’t working. The Clarion-Ledger says legislators should find the political courage to do away with the “85 percent” rule. This is not being “soft on crime” or allowing criminals to be turned out on the streets.