Mississippi now one of the world’s leaders in mass incarceration – National & International News – FRI 12Aug2022

Mississippi is now second in the world in prison population per capita. Find out what it's costing you and whether it's making you safer.

Mississippi now one of the world’s leading mass incarcerators. Do you feel safer yet?



Mississippi now one the world’s leading mass incarcerators

According to the World Population Review, Mississippi now boasts the second-highest per capita incarcerated population of any other state or nation in world. Only Louisiana (with 674 incarcerated people per 100k population) beats Mississippi (639 incarcerated per 100k). Mississippi still handily beats out the national average of the US (629 per 100k), the world’s most incarcerated nation. By way of comparison, Iran incarcerates a mere 228 people per 100k, while China imprisons a paltry 119 people per 100k.

While the US as a whole is imprisoning 16% fewer people than before the pandemic. Until recently Mississippi was following that trend. Between September, 2013, and February 2022, Mississippi’s prison population shrank from 22,490 inmates to 16,499. But since Gov. Tate Reeves appointed a former Chevron executive to lead the state’s parole board in January, our prison population has increased by 1,581 people as of August 1, a 9.7% increase in just six months.

At this rate, we’ll top 19,000 inmates by the end of the year, and 22,000 by the end of 2023. At a daily cost of $53.72 per inmate, this increase in prison population will cost Mississippi taxpayers over $100 million per year.

Does $100 million buy peace of mind?

According to Cliff Johnson, director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law, our increasingly punitive system has done little to ease Mississippians’ anxiety over crime. “We have perfected throwing people away for long periods of time,” Johnson said, “and yet after decades and decades of this approach, Mississippians are more fearful about violent crime than any time I remember”.

And even with all that money, Mississippi can’t take care of the prisoners it already has. The Department of Justice has been investigating violence and inhumane conditions at Parchman since 2020.

All this does little to ensure that prisoners don’t reoffend once they get out. There simply aren’t enough resources for education and job training to ensure incarcerated Mississippians have a shot at the straight-and-narrow once they’ve served their time.

Some good news?

Corrections Commissioner Burl Cain hopes to establish 80 schools where inmates can be certified in engine repair, plumbing, welding, carpentry and other fields. By doing this, Cain says “we’ll reduce recidivism, and we’ll reduce violence. About half of the 4,400 inmates we release each year will have a skill or trade”. Rather than hiring outside teachers, Cain hopes to recruit certified inmates to teach these classes.

Reeves appointed Cain to head the department following the Justice Department’s intervention in 2020. However, it’s worth noting Cain came with a colorful past from his time heading the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

Even assuming the best intentions on Cain’s part with regard to prison reform, it’s difficult to see how he will achieve these lofty aims if Mississippi’s prison population continues to swell beyond the point it can support.

According to Johnson, “The Mississippi Department of Corrections can’t have a rodeo [referring to one of Cain’s enterprises in Louisiana] or enough GED classes, because we don’t have the staffing. We probably can’t support more than about 12,000 incarcerated, but we’ve got 18,000”.

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NEMiss.NEWS is a locally owned and operated online news magazine containing news, information, opinion, etc. of interest to residents of Northeast Mississippi. NEMiss.NEWS was founded in 2014 and is a division of Shivimage, LLC, and began publishing in early 2015. read more>>

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