Mississippi locks up more people per capita than China and Russia combined, according to the most recent comparison.
The state had 1,155 inmates per 10,000 population in 2013, which was more than China’s 121 and Russia’s 475, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies and the Prison Policy Initiative.
“The Mississippi prison system is in a crisis of over-incarceration, and that crisis will continue as long as the state imposes wildly excessive sentences, allows private corporations to reap profit from mass incarceration, and locks people up in conditions so nightmarish that some will never recover, physically or mentally,” said Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project.
In response to the problem, a bipartisan task force, chaired by Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps, analyzed the state’s corrections and criminal justice system, successfully pushed for reforms that lawmakers enacted this year that gave more power to judges to hand down alternative sentences.
But the same new law — which went into effect July 1 and aimed at keeping more from going to prison — is ensuring more stay there.
A year ago, the number of state inmates in all institutions that had ballooned to 22,321, as of last week, had fallen to 19,811, thanks to a large number of paroles. The state Parole Board has reviewed 7,083 cases this year.
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