Are we tough on crime or tough on the state’s taxpayers?

A new Pew Charitable Trusts study documents what most state legislators already know from wrestling the state’s budget — Mississippi’s prison population is soaring and so is the cost of operating the state’s prison system.

Here’s a succinct description of the problem from the Pew study: “Mississippi’s prison population has grown by 17 percent in the last decade and 134 percent in the past 20 years. The comparable figures for Mississippi’s resident population are 4 and 14 percent, respectively.

“That is, prison growth in Mississippi was more than four times and almost nine times faster than resident population growth, for the respective periods. The state now houses more than 22,600 prisoners and has the second-highest imprisonment rate in the country, trailing Louisiana.

“Mississippi taxpayers spend $339 million annually on corrections, up from $276 million in 2003. The vast majority–93 percent–pays for prisons, while the remainder funds probation, parole, and house arrest.”

Sid Salter
11/12