Last year, Mississippi Governor, Tate Reeves, vetoed a major criminal justice bill that would have changed the landscape concerning parole eligibility. This year, the Mississippi legislature introduced an updated bill, Senate Bill 2795. While the bill has passed both houses of the legislature, it has yet to be signed by the governor.
Senate Bill 2795, also known as the Mississippi Earned Parole Eligibility Act, clarifies previous legislation by explaining who is eligible for parole. If signed by the governor, it would also apply retroactively. Here are some of the major points of the bill:
- A person convicted of a nonviolent crime will be eligible for parole after serving 25% of their sentence, or 10 years, whichever is less.
- For those convicted of violent crimes (except for robbery with a deadly weapon, drive-by shooting, and carjacking), they will be eligible for parole after serving 50% of their time, or 20 years, whichever is less.
- For those convicted specifically for robbery with a deadly weapon, drive-by shooting, or carjacking, they will be eligible for parole after serving 60% of their time, or 25 years, whichever is less.
- A person is not considered for parole if they have been convicted of capital murder, first or second-degree murder, human trafficking, drug trafficking, or of an offense specifically prohibiting parole.
- The bill applies retroactively to those offenses that occurred after June 30, 1995.
Overall, this would mean that more people would become eligible for early release. The bill would also help to clear up some of the confusion caused by House Bill 585, because it finally clarifies that those persons convicted of violent crimes would, in fact, be eligible for early release. What does not change is that if a person is convicted of a new crime after being released, then they could still be revoked and placed back into MDOC custody for the remainder of their sentence. Although Mississippi still lags behind many other states when it comes to Senate Bill 2795, this would ultimately be a step in the right direction, since it would help alleviate a crowded jail system while still holding convicted persons accountable.