Corrections Chief Seeks More Use of House Arrest, Parole

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This is what Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps told lawmakers Tuesday. Speaking to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Epps said the entire Legislature next year should consider revising truth in sentencing laws for nonviolent inmates.

Lawmakers tweaked the rules for first-time, nonviolent offenders in 2001. But, Epps says the changes did too little to bring down the corrections budget.

The truth in sentencing laws require all inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before becoming eligible for parole.

Prison spending went from $109.6 million in 1994, when "truth in sentencing'' was adopted, to $270.6 million in the budget year that ended June 30. That made prisons one of the fastest-growing items in the overall state budget.

During the same period, Mississippi's prison population rose from 10,669 to 23,473.