Law enforcement officers questioning inmate sentence durations - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Law enforcement officers questioning inmate sentence durations

A new law went into effect in July that reduces the minimum required time served for violent offenders to half of their sentences, and non-violent offenders to just a quarter of their sentences. (Photo source: WLOX) A new law went into effect in July that reduces the minimum required time served for violent offenders to half of their sentences, and non-violent offenders to just a quarter of their sentences. (Photo source: WLOX)
"I'll be real frank with you, I think we're letting some people out a little bit too early and we're facing the results thereof," Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania said Tuesday. (Photo source: WLOX) "I'll be real frank with you, I think we're letting some people out a little bit too early and we're facing the results thereof," Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania said Tuesday. (Photo source: WLOX)
HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

Gulfport shooting suspect Michael Thornton was arrested in Georgia overnight, and it wasn't his first run-in with the law. According to a Mississippi Department of Corrections spokesperson, Thornton was sentenced to eight years in 2010 for burglary. Since that time, he has been in and out of the Harrison County jail multiple times.

Those facts have many, including Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania, wondering if inmates are being released too early.

Last March, state lawmakers passed a criminal justice reform bill aimed at making the justice system more efficient and less expensive. Governor Bryant said the bill could save the state more than $250 million over 10 years.

The law went into effect in July, and reduces the minimum required time served for violent offenders to half of their sentences, and non-violent offenders to just a quarter of their sentences. Chief Papania thinks that may not be the best option for some inmates.

"I'll be real frank with you, I think we're letting some people out a little bit too early and we're facing the results thereof," said Papania.

In addition to the reduced sentences, offenders are also being divided into two categories: non-violent and violent. According to Harrison County Sheriff Melvin Brisolara, that's something that simply doesn't work.

"You just can't take every case and treat it the same and say every case is going to be 'x' amount of whatever the sentencing may be," said Brisolara.

According to the sheriff, without taking a look at cases individually, the process of sentencing is no longer as effective. He thinks this could be taking away some of the capability that judges have at the county level.

"Should all of them be released early? Maybe not. But I think that's where the judge needs to make the decision," said Brisolara.

He explained that that once an inmate is handed over to the Department of Corrections, it's difficult for a judge to see that the inmate serves more than the minimum required time, if needed. That's something he would like to see change.

"Let the judges take each case based on its own merits, make a decision based on it, and hand the sentencing down," said Brisolara.

We did reach out to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, and a spokesperson told us that the department follows the law based on what the state legislature decides.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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