Mississippi Halts Prison Growth By Paroling More Nonviolent Offenders


Mississippi has been able to reduce its relatively high prison population by reducing its average length of incarceration and releasing more inmates on parole, says a new report by the JFA Institute for the Pew Center on the States Public SafetyPerformance Project. A key was a 2008 law that permitted nonviolent offenders to be paroled after serving 25 percent of their sentences; the state had required all offenders to serve 85 percent. As of last summer, 3,076 inmates had been released under the change in a state with 22,800 inmates in 2007.

The JFA Institute had estimated that the state’s prison population would grow nearly to 28,000; now, it is not expected to increase. Of the released prisoners under the new law, only 4 percent had been returned to custody, a small fraction of the national recidivism rate. On average, the released prisoners served about half their stated sentences. The report concluded that the “Mississippi reforms have averted a major prison crowding crisis both now and for the future, and have done so while maintaining public safety.”

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