Look For Alternative Ways To Keep Non-Violent Offenders Out Of Prisons

WLOX News has reported many times on the overcrowding problem in our prisons.

The state department of corrections is asking for a 21 million dollar increase to its nearly 350 million dollar budget for next year.

This is to keep up with a prison population of more than 22,000 that is expected to increase by another thousand in the next 12 months.

We all want violent individuals and habitual criminals locked up.

In Mississippi, all state prisoners must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. This is regardless of their crime.

We must find new, less costly and innovative ways other than jail time to punish first time and non-violent offenders.

For example, a few areas of the state have experimented with drug courts that keep offenders out of jail as long as they follow the court guidelines.

One correction official tells us it costs 16 thousand dollars a year to house a prisoner at Parchman, while a drug court program only costs about five thousand dollars a year.

It's also costs much less to use house arrest for non-violent offenders.

We urge the legislature to look at these and other cost effective programs around the country and make changes.

If they don't, we will soon be spending more on housing prisoners than we do on education and other vital services.

That's our opinion, we would like to hear yours. Email your thoughts to editorials@wlox.com.

David Vincent
WLOX-TV Station Manager