Put fewer people behind bars

House Corrections Chairman George Flaggs, a Vicksburg Democrat, said prison spending has more than doubled in the last 15 years, rising to $333 million in the budget year that just ended. Even at that, he said the Corrections Department will end the year with a $30 million deficit, which the Legislature will have to make up when it meets in 2013.

Department spokeswoman Tara Booth confirmed the deficit, saying it stems from a growing prison population, which has risen to nearly 22,000 people. Mississippi trails only Louisiana in the rate at which it incarcerates people.

Flaggs said many inmates would be better off confined at home and monitored electronically. He said inmates with drug problems could be treated at home, and that the state could save money.

“I just think we’ve got too many people in our system who just have a drug problem,” Flaggs said. “I think they’re better served at home getting some kind of treatment with just an electronic bracelet.”

Clarion Ledger