Changes to the criminal system, designed to hold down exploding prison costs while ensuring tougher sentences for violent offenders and drug traffickers, passed the House on Monday 106-7.
The comprehensive proposal, based on recommendations made by a Criminal Justice Task Force last year, would save about $266 million over a 10-year period, Judiciary B Chair Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, told members of the House.
The bill has the backing of Gov. Phil Bryant, the majority Republican leadership of the Legislature and most members of the minority Democratic Party.
During debate on the floor, Gipson was asked if the main goal of the bill was to reduce prison costs. “The primary purpose of this legislation is to protect public safety,” he responded. “What we have found is what we have now is not working.”
The bill would give judges more leeway to sentence offenders to alternatives other than prison, such as house arrest and drug rehab.