Efforts are being made to make Mississippi's jailing system more just. In recent months concerns have been growing about jail overcrowding in Lauderdale County.
"Between the municipal judges, the justice court judges, and the circuit court itself, all the sheriff is is a gatekeeper, and can't release anyone to speed anyone through the process of the justice system,"said Sheriff Billy Sollie. Those were comments that he made during an interview with Newscenter 11 in September.
According to state officials, the high number of inmates and mounting costs is not only an issue of concern in Lauderdale County, but also statewide.
To address this, last session the Mississippi legislature created a Truth in Sentencing Task Force. The group's assignment is to study and make recommendations on how to improve the relationship between the corrections and the criminal justice systems in Mississippi. So far, the members have conducted a comprehensive review of all areas including the state, local and tribal governments' corrections practices and policies regarding sentencing.
"They're coming forward with recommendations that we believe will make a difference," says Mississippi House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden from District 83. He goes on to say that the recommendations are expected to uphold due punishment while possibly curbing some costs.
"I think some of them will provide for alternative means of incarceration like house arrest," says Snowden, "or perhaps other sorts of sentencing like drug court use, but also probably a minimum time of service in the system so that you don't get automatically let out because the money runs out. It'll be a more just, a more equitable form of criminal justice."
The group's recommendations are expected to be released later this month.