Legislative committees meet to evaluate proposals to reduce prison costs

Mississippi lawmakers say they want to reduce the number of former inmates who return to prison after serving time. However, one state representative said ex-felons could have trouble finding jobs because of workers’ compensation insurance policies that companies carry.

Many workers’ comp policies ban employers from hiring former prisoners, said Democratic Rep. Willie Bailey of Greenville, who’s an attorney. If some ex-inmates can’t find work, they might turn back to crime just to put food on the table, Bailey said.

He mentioned the problem Wednesday as two House committees met to examine proposals from a group of judges, prosecutors and other elected officials who spent several months in 2013 studying the state’s criminal justice system. Mississippi’s prison costs have risen dramatically in the past two decades and the state has the second-highest incarceration rate in the nation, behind only Louisiana.