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July 6, 2008

A Mississippi pitch for drug courts and getting smarter on crime and punishment

Writing here in the Clarion-Ledger, a state judge (and former state senator) makes a strong pitch for drug courts in Mississippi.  Here is part of the pitch:

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, while serving as state auditor, released a report from his office which concluded, in part, that the drug court systems are "an effective community-based strategy to reduce drug use and crime, generate cost savings at the local and state level and allow statewide exchange of information between Circuit Court districts."

That report estimated that Mississippi could save about $5.4 million dollars annually based upon merely 500 participants going into a statewide drug court system instead of being housed in the state Department of Corrections. By the way, that was not a typographical error.  That was $5.4 million dollars that the taxpayers would save based upon the estimate.  There are currently more than 1,700 participants actually in the drug court program statewide. You do the math.  Drug court works.

Building on this drug court commentary, the paper's editorial board makes a broader pitch for getting smarter about crime and punishment.  Here are some snippets from the interesting editorial:

Gov. Haley Barbour signed a bill into law earlier this year to restore common sense to sentencing in the criminal courts — making some 7,000 inmates eligible for parole by relaxing sentencing guidelines.  Senate Bill 2136 relaxed the state's so-called 85-percent rule, passed in an ill-advised moment in 1994 when the Legislature took the federal government's "get tough on crime" challenge and raised it.

The so-called "Truth in Sentencing" law was the result of a nationwide push for tougher sentencing, and Mississippi lawmakers responded. This newspaper supported the law. Famous last words: It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Unfortunately, Mississippi overreacted, and the law worked too well.  Congress had told states to pass tougher laws to continue receiving federal funds for prisons.  While the federal mandate was for violent criminals, Mississippi made it for all offenders. Mississippi has been on a prison-building binge ever since, trying to keep up with the ever-increasing number of those incarcerated: mostly drug-related or nonviolent....

It makes sense — and dollars and cents — to shift "tough" on crime to smart on crime.  Drug courts must increasingly become part of the solution to prison crowding and ineffective drug treatment in this state.

July 6, 2008 at 09:06 AM | Permalink

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Comments

This is more like a question, my son just got arrested for drugs in his car. I don't know all the details but he apparently had a significant amount, his bond is $100,000.00 in terms of his crime what are the mandatory laws for this amount. He comes from NY and of course he must of been picking up or delivering I am not sure. if you can give me an idea I would appreciate. also are their any lawyers who do pro bono. He is bi polar and a war vet from Iraq, he has never been the same.

Posted by: Kim Johson | Nov 13, 2008 8:54:04 AM

Please provide me with information on the figures of High Prison Rate for Mississippi (Sentencing total no in each prison. Please break down for each county and they are: Hinds, Rankin, Yazoo. In Graduate School. Thanks

Posted by: Anita | Mar 14, 2009 1:59:07 PM

I would like to get the law pertaining to first time non violent offenders parole being granted after serving 25% of time instead of the 85%. This was supposed to be signed into law within the last month. I am a parent of a person, 1st time offender for False Pretense.

Posted by: mgriner | Apr 14, 2009 12:24:09 PM

Hello Iam a freind of a freind who got put in jail for less than 30 grams of pot and the reason they gave him for pulling him over that hes car was suppose to been invovled in a hit and run well it wasnt no hit and run it was seen on the car that he had not been in no accdent but they search his car anyways because he smelled like it on him self not in the car but on him is what the officer said so Iam trying to find out what he needs to do. so please email me back thank you

Posted by: Tina | May 7, 2009 2:01:37 PM

I am a student. My boyfriend got sentenced to 6 years in prison for selling meth, which he did pled guilty to. This is his first offense, he never got in any trouble with the law before, and his a college graduate. Is there anything we can do to get him out. Like can his sentence be reconsidered if he appeared in front of the judge again? Please answer my question, i do not know who else to ask.

Posted by: Jessica | May 20, 2009 2:18:55 AM

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