Members of the faith community are calling for prison reforms - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Members of the faith community are calling for prison reforms

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

You, as a taxpayer, are helping fund hundreds of millions of dollars worth of prison costs every year. Mississippi has one of the nation's highest imprisonment rates, but new voices are being added in the call for more reforms.

A second chance for redemption, that's at the core of what these faith leaders want for Mississippi prisoners.

"One of the things that has been a problem that to reform criminal justice is to be soft on crime," said Reverend CJ Rhodes, Clergy for Prison Reform President.

The legislation that passed in 2014 had a goal to enhance certainty and clarity in sentencing and prioritize prison space for violent and career offenders. The progress is happening, but this group believes more can be done.

"If you just incarcerate folks, put them in, they come back out to the same situation, they go back in over and over again to a life of cyclical kind of institutionalism," added Rhodes.

This time last year, the Department of Corrections said the number of parole and probation cases had nearly tripled. It's the first sign that non-violent offenders are getting reduced sentences and being put into rehab programs. This group is passionate about seeing programs like that expand.

"To not let them be repeat offenders just because they don't have the tools to get to where they need to be once they are out," said Pastor Florence Falls-Smith.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say they'll keep fighting for more reforms.

"It's consuming a larger part of the budget we could be using for rehabilitation and treatment," said Rep. Joel Bomgar-R, District 58.

"Put less emphasis on trying to keep people down and put more emphasis on pulling people up," added Rep. Tyrone Ellis-D, District 38.

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