Public Safety in Mississippi

This page was updated on June 27, 2017, to reflect new data.

Mississippi approved comprehensive sentencing and corrections legislation in 2014 that enhances certainty and clarity in sentencing and prioritizes prison space for violent and career offenders. H.B. 585 also expands judicial discretion by authorizing alternatives to incarceration for less-serious offenders, strengthens supervision and programs to reduce recidivism, and establishes performance objectives and measures. The state’s bipartisan, interbranch Corrections and Criminal Justice Task Force developed the policy recommendations for the legislation with technical assistance from Pew as part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

I have no tolerance for career criminals or violent offenders, and this legislation will allow Mississippi the resources to hold these offenders accountable. —Governor Phil Bryant (R)

Historically, Mississippi has had one of the nation’s highest and fastest-growing imprisonment rates. Between 1983 and 2013, the state’s prison population grew 300 percent, to more than 22,400 inmates, with an additional 1,951 expected over 10 years. Between 2002 and 2012, the state also experienced a 28 percent increase in average sentence lengths that, while partially offset by expanded early release options, led to longer average prison stays.

Nearly three years later, trends in Mississippi’s prison and community corrections populations continue to point to success. Highlights of the state’s criminal justice reform progress include:

1) Prison population reduced.

  • The state’s prison population dropped by 6 percent in the first two years after implementation.
  • In 2014, the state's incarceration rate fell from second-highest in nation to fifth.
  • The share of prison space prioritized for violent offenders increased 30 percent between 2012 and 2016.

2) Public safety improved.

  • In first year after reform, the total crime rate fell 3 percent, including a 5 percent drop in violent crime.
  • 82 percent of probationers were successfully discharged in 2015, up from 68 percent in 2012.

3) Taxpayer dollars saved.

  • The number of days of supervision required across the system declined by about 1 million in the first year.
  • The number of people in prison was 19 percent below pre-reform projections in 2015.
  • The reforms are expected to avert prison growth and save $266 million over 10 years.