Mississippi sentencing, prison policies up for debate

Mississippi judges and prosecutors told lawmakers Tuesday that they’re tired of the uncertainty about how long people will stay in prison after sentencing.

Many inmates can earn time off for good behavior in prison. That means, for example, that a 10-year sentence for a nonviolent crime could translate into fewer years locked up.

“We are the ones who get the phone calls and run into people in the store complaining about it,” said Ronnie Harper, district attorney for Adams, Amite, Franklin and Wilkinson counties.

Yet, some policymakers say that if judges are giving stiff sentences simply to ensure that inmates will remain incarcerated longer, that’s stretching state resources.

A group of lawmakers, judges and prosecutors met Tuesday at the Capitol to discuss prison policies and sentencing practices. The task force could recommend changes for lawmakers to consider during the 2014 session.