JACKSON, Miss. — As the state enters the second half of the current fiscal year, Mississippi’s prison population continues to increase and shows no signs of abating.
During 2011, the number of prisoners under the jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities declined by 0.9%, from 1,613,803 to 1,598,780, but not in Mississippi. Mississippi has increased its inmate population by over 1,000 in the past two years:
· July 1, 2012 – 22,023 inmates, an increase of 716 from July 1, 2011
· July 1, 2011 – 21,307 inmates, an increase of 382 from July 1, 2010
· July 1, 2010 – 20,925 inmates
According to the United States Department of Justice – Bureau of Justice Statistics, only three states, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma, have incarceration rates at or above 650 per 100,000 residents. Mississippi is second only to Louisiana in incarceration rates. Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, with over 1.5 million men and women living behind bars.
“Maximizing public safety can be achieved without maximizing prison expenditures,” said Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) Commissioner Chris Epps. “Like I’ve said time after time – we need to figure out whom we’re are mad at and whom we’re afraid of. We need to consider alternatives to incarceration, especially for non-violent first time offenders.”
“The only way of reducing Mississippi’s prison population growth while protecting public safety is by diverting a greater number of low-risk offenders from prisons, reducing the time that low-risk offenders are in prisons, or a combination of these approaches,” said Epps, who is president-elect of the American Correctional Association.
Mississippi’s recidivism rate has been reduced from 30.31% to 27.65% in the last three years, one of the lowest in the nation, while the national recidivism rate is 52% over a three-year period. Additionally, even though the national average to incarcerate an inmate is $65.41 per inmate/per day and Mississippi enjoys one of the lowest costs per inmate day, the $41.51 per inmate/per day is a significant strain on Mississippi’s entire budget.
Commissioner Epps cautions that despite the major fiscal reductions in the corrections expenditures over the past few years, prison costs will just continue to rise unless the inmate population decreases.
MDOC’s budget for fiscal 2013 is $339,130,424, and the prison system already is faced with a nearly $30 million deficit because of inmate growth, two federal court orders and critical capital improvement needs.