The Daily Journal of Tupelo, Miss., explores the slow pace of prison reform in Mississippi. Over the past five years, imprisonment has fallen in 29 states, with double-digit decreases in 10 states. Over that same period, Mississippi's state's prison population has increased by 5 percent. A new 21-member Corrections and Criminal Justice Task Force that recently began meeting gives Mississippi an opportunity to change the way criminal offenders are sentenced, analyze recidivism and possibly save money.
The task force has been given the job of studying sentencing and inconsistency in sentencing, mandatory minimums, cost-effectiveness, the rate prisoners return after release and crime deterrence among many other things. Tight budgets, public support and alternative recidivism reduction programs are among the factors cited in reforms. Christopher Epps, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, said reducing the state's prison population must begin with sentencing reforms.