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PEER: Backlog of parole candidates costing state

handcuffsJACKSON — Mississippi prison officials say they’re working to erase a backlog of parole cases that are up for consideration, as recommended by a legislative watchdog group.

The Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review released a report today that said some inmates are not receiving parole hearings the first month they’re eligible, and that is causing the state to spend thousands of dollars a month to keep people in prison longer than necessary.

The report recommended that the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the Parole Board work together to produce up-to-date lists of inmates who become eligible for parole. The agencies said, in response, that they’re doing that.

The Parole Board has recently hired two contract workers to help make its operations more efficient, board chairman Steven Pickett said. He said one has accounting experience and one has worked in law enforcement case management.

“Parole is a privilege. It is not necessarily a right,” Pickett said in an interview. “We are cautious and carefully review these cases.”

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Grace Fisher said the number of parole cases eligible for consideration increased after August 2013, when state Attorney General Jim Hood issued a legal opinion that said inmates could be considered for parole if they had been convicted of burglary of a nonresidential or of an unoccupied home. Hood said state law specified that those convicted of burglary of an occupied home would not be eligible for parole. Fisher said a state Supreme Court ruling about prior convictions and parole eligibility also helped create a backlog for the Parole Board.

PEER also said the Department of Corrections should ensure that crime victims receive money more quickly from inmates who are ordered to pay restitution. The report said in many cases when inmates are working to pay restitution, the first bit of money is used to pay for the inmates’ living expenses in the state restitution centers, then money is taken to pay court costs and fees. Only after that is money sent to victims, the report said.

“As a direct result of MDOC policy, crime victims have last priority in receiving court-ordered restitution,” PEER wrote.

The department said timing of payments is controlled by court orders.

“MDOC’s policy says disbursement is made in accordance with each court order,” Fisher said.

The PEER report was dated Sept. 9 but was first released to the public today. It’s normal practice for PEER reports to be given to lawmakers several days before they are published on the PEER website.

 

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2 comments

  1. If we want to cut costs form our criminal justice system, stop arresting people and sending them to prison for non-violent crimes. We already spend more on our prisoners than our students

  2. Well, why don’t we let all of these “offenders” out. The Department od Corrections has taken the Stockholm Syndrome position. They, Chris Epps and his appointees, believe the tax payers of MS can’t afford to keep these “offenders” locked up. After all they did was steal your possessions and apparently your false sense of security.
    A recent law passed by the MS Legislature allows for all non-violent offenders to take your possessions, your identity, sell drugs, embezzle, and not be sentenced to prison time. These are non-violent convicted felons.
    Why do we as tax payers have law enforcement arrest individuals selling assorted drugs on just about any street corner when they will only get probation. They will only have to report about 4 times a year.
    Crime pays in MS and it pays well.

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