Criminal justice reform bill clears Mississippi House, Senate

A bill proposing several changes to Mississippi’s criminal justice system is one step from going to Gov. Phil Bryant.

The House and Senate on Monday both passed the final version of House Bill 585. But the House held it for the possibility of more debate.

The bill was filed after judges, prosecutors and lawmakers spent months studying the criminal justice system. Supporters say it could cut prison costs by $266 million spread over 10 years.

The bill says anyone convicted of a violent offense would be required to serve at least 50 percent of a sentence, and anyone convicted of a nonviolent offense would have to serve at least 25 percent.

The bill would give judges more flexibility to give alternative sentences, such as ordering treatment for drug users.

The bill contains the same language as the Senate version authored by Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula. It provides alternative sentencing for non-violent and low-risk offenders in exchange for swifter sanctions and extensive supervision after their release.

“Today’s final passage of HB 585 was the result of more than a year’s worth of work involving many stakeholders throughout Mississippi’s criminal justice system all of whom I believe put their own interests aside for the future financial stability of our state,” Wiggins said in a press release.

Gulflive
3/17/14