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‘What we’re doing right now isn’t working’ — Lawmakers take another swing at criminal justice reform

In 2020, Gov. Tate Reeves vetoed two criminal justice reform bills which would have provided parole eligibility for thousands of people in prison and helped them reenter society through workforce training programs.

The governor said last year’s measures — House Bill 658 and Senate Bill 2123 — were “well-intentioned” but “went too far.”

Between overcrowding, violence, an ongoing Department of Justice investigation and the coronavirus pandemic, Mississippi’s prison crisis still persists. If the Legislature doesn’t take action soon, the state is facing potential federal intervention. In Alabama, a similar prison crisis has resulted in taxpayers facing a $1 billion bill to meet federal mandates to fix the system.

In Mississippi, the Legislature is trying this year to pass new criminal justice reform measures to expand parole eligibility and reentry programs for people in the state’s prisons.

Rep. Kevin Horan, D-Grenada, authored two criminal justice reform bills currently moving through the Legislature — House Bill 525, the omnibus criminal justice reform bill, and House Bill 465, the Compassionate Parole Eligibility Act.

Horan, who is chair of the House Corrections Committee, said HB 525 primarily focuses on “reentry and programming of inmates prior to release and uniformity in parole,” particularly aiming to streamline the differences in parole eligibility for those who were convicted and sentenced before and after 1995.

This article was initially published at Mississippi Today

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