On March 31, 2014 Governor Phil Bryant signed a comprehensive package of criminal justice legislation that is expected to save $266 million over the next decade by halting projected prison growth and safely reducing the prison population. HB 585 passed the House with a vote of 105-13 and was unanimously approved by the Senate.

Mississippi has had one of the nation’s highest and fastest-growing imprisonment rates. With technical assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the 21-member Mississippi Task Force on Corrections and Criminal Justice studied the state’s corrections system and came to the central conclusion that there are more-effective and less-expensive ways to hold lower-level, nonviolent offenders accountable while protecting public safety.

The new law, based on policy recommendations from the task force, enhances certainty and clarity in sentencing, focuses on providing prison space for violent and career offenders, expands judicial discretion in imposing alternatives to incarceration for lower-level offenders, strengthens supervision and interventions to reduce recidivism, and establishes performance objectives and measures.

A more detailed summary of the legislation is here.