State law to cut prison expenses

Governor Phil Bryant signed into law House Bill 585 — a sweeping reform bill that pushes the state to “get right on crime,” cutting state prison expenses on nonviolent acts of crime on an upwards of $266 million dollars in the next 10 years.

Several prominent conservative leaders who served as signatories to the Right on Crime Statement Principles released statements last Thursday applauding the bill passed last week by the Mississippi Legislature.

HB 585 was met resounding welcome, passing with a landslide vote in both chambers last week.

David Keene, former President of the National Rifle Association and former Chairman of the American Conservative Union expressed his praise for Mississippi.

“Mississippi’s reforms reflect conservative ideals: public safety, personal responsibility and limited government Many states have made these kinds of changes, and mostly they’ve been led by conservatives who understand these issues from both a budgetary and crime prevention perspective,” Keene said.

For seven months, a 21-member Mississippi Corrections and Criminal Justice Task Force, comprised of judges, prosecutors, sheriffs and elected officials conducted thorough investigative research, learning what works and what does not in the correctional field.

The Task Force learned about reforms that are reducing crime and government spending in other states, such as Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas, and ultimately concluding that Mississippi had a poor return on its public safety investment.

“This has worked in Texas and other states across the South. It has cut crime and cut government spending. It’s based on solid conservative principles and it’s what good governance is all about,” Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, said.

The bill represents a comprehensive public safety reform, intended to gain control of correction spending on taxpayer dollars while maintaining public safety.

Gov. Bryant spoke in high hopes of the bill, stating its hard work would benefit Mississippians by placing tax dollars where they make the most impact.

“We pledged to Mississippians that we would make this the ‘public safety session’ and we have worked hard to develop a research-based plan that is tough on crime while using tax dollars wisely,” Bryant said.

“This bill ensures that violent criminals are held accountable for their crimes, and it provides a second chance to veterans and other Mississippians who have made mistakes to take steps to get their lives back on track.”

Under the new law, sentencing charges are under reform, giving judges flexibility and allowing for alternate sentences for drug or veteran treatment courts.

“It could provide necessary space for those we need to take out of society – the violent criminal, the organized crime leaders, the drug trafficker,” Bryant said.

The bill specifies which crimes are violent, also bringing into law that these offenders must serve at least 50% of their sentence.

The new law will take effect July 1.

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