Push to revive parole survives after veto

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JACKSON (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves killed a bill but not an idea when he vetoed the Mississippi Correctional Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2020, which would have made more inmates eligible for the possibility of parole.

Advocates for criminal justice changes are still saying Mississippi needs to ease the moral and financial burden of a prison system that is the subject of multiple lawsuits over safety and sanitation and that is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

The push for change is coming from groups across the political spectrum, including the liberal Poor People's Campaign and the libertarian Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

The Republican governor wrote in his July 8 veto message that he had received calls from law enforcement officers and prosecutors concerned about the release of inmates with violent histories.

“While the spirit of Senate Bill 2123 is well-intentioned, I believe the scope of its proposed expansion of parole eligibility presents problems that have not been fully considered by all stakeholders and as drafted would threaten public safety,” Reeves wrote.

During an Aug. 20 news conference, representatives from the Poor People’s Campaign and other groups sharply criticized Reeves for vetoing the parole bill.

Alesha Judkins is the Mississippi director of FWD.us, a group that published a report last year saying that Mississippi's habitual offender laws are causing “extreme” prison sentences. 

FWD.us was formed in 2013 by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other technology and business executives. 

Senate Bill 2123, which passed with bipartisan support, said people convicted of nonviolent offenses could become eligible for parole after serving 25% of their sentence. Those convicted of violent offenses and sentenced between July 1, 1995, and June 30, 2014, would have become eligible for parole after completing 50% of their sentence or after 20 years.

The bill would have allowed people convicted of most violent offenses after July 1, 2014, to become parole-eligible after serving 50% of their sentence served or after 30 years, whichever is less. The bill also would have allowed parole hearings for those 65 and older who have served 10 years of their sentences. Habitual offenders, sex offenders and inmates sentenced for capital murder would not have been eligible for parole.


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