Governor Reeves Vetoes Criminal Justice Reform Bill

It is very disappointing to see that Governor Reeves has decided to veto Senate Bill 2123 commonly referred to as The Mississippi Correctional Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2020. It is important to understand the way that parole works in Mississippi currently in order to understand why the reforms in this bill are necessary. Here is a brief explanation.

If one looks at Mississippi’s parole statute, they will see that there is no parole for inmates convicted of violent crimes. Violent crimes are defined in a separate statute listing all of the offenses which are deemed violent. In the violent crimes statute it says that no person convicted of a violent crime shall be eligible for release until they have served 50% of their sentence. But how can this be when the parole statute says no parole for violent offenders?

The answer is that violent offenders are still eligible for administrative reductions in sentence such as “earned time allowance†and “trustee time allowance.†These programs are simply parole by another name. There are limitations to who can receive these reductions in sentence. Some of those limitations are statutory and some of these limitations are simply MDOC policy. The parole board is not part of MDOC. None of the inmates serving time for violent offenses go before the parole board before being released, MDOC just releases them.

It is preferable and more transparent to make inmates eligible for a parole hearing rather than relying on the administrative reductions in sentence to reduce the prison population. A parole hearing would allow for more individualized consideration of each inmate’s case pursuant to the factors contained in the statute. The changes contained in Senate Bill 2123 need to happen and hopefully will happen sooner rather than later. This is where I usually say , “Call the Coon Law Firm Today†but in this instance it would be better to call your state representative and ask them to override Governor Reeves’ veto.