Parole Board says backlog's been tackled - - Jackson, MS

Parole Board says backlog has been tackled

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The longer inmates are behind bars, more of your money goes to keep them there. It's an issue explored in a recent legislative report. This report is from the PEER committee. PEER stands for performance evaluation and expenditure review.

They were tasked with looking at the timing of releases from the Department of Corrections and State Parole Board. The agencies say the problems were being worked out before the report was ever released.

Mississippi Parole Board Chairman Steve Pickett isn't denying their cases backed up within the last year.The Department of Corrections says the number of parole eligible inmates spiked in August 2013.

"Anytime that you have new folks become eligible, that changes the whole pool when you're working with a monthly docket process," explained Pickett.

An Attorney General's opinion made certain house burglars suddenly eligible for parole. A state Supreme Court ruling also contributed to a higher volume of cases.

Pickett says they've made changes to fast-track those since the PEER report was written.

"What we're doing now is we're reviewing those files twice monthly," said Pickett. "That's where additional staff comes into play with expertise because we'll be checking and double checking and monitoring the ever-changing records and time calculations."

The report says it's costing the state more money when inmates don't get paroled when first eligible. But the flip side to this is what the director of New Ways Mississippi Larry Perry thinks about.

"Look at what actually happens to these men after they get out," Perry noted.

Perry's non-profit helps with the transition. He says the biggest barrier he sees in ex-offenders is the lack of opportunities when they are released.

"If we don't have these systems in place, those support services when they get out, they're going to go right back," described Perry.

Getting someone out of prison and back on the street is a lengthy process and one Pickett says they don't rush through.

"The Parole Board does work very hard to ensure those who are due their hearings are seen but we're not compromising public security," said Pickett.

If you aren't familiar with the process, the ideal time frame is for inmates to have a board hearing three months before they're eligible for parole.

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