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RIDGELAND, Miss. – After passing parole reform in 2021, Mississippi continues to make improvements to the state’s criminal justice system, but a new report shows more change is needed.
Empower Mississippi’s ‘Grading Justice’ evaluates the Magnolia State on its criminal justice system across 15 different policy areas, assigning the state a letter grade based on how well its policies reflect best practices in that area.
Grading Justice is the first report of its kind to assess a state’s entire criminal justice system.
“Grading Justice provides a comprehensive evaluation of the laws and practices that define Mississippi’s justice system—from policing and pre-trial process, to trial and sentencing, to parole and re-entry,” said Empower President Russ Latino. “Our goal for this report is to honestly assess the reforms that have been enacted in recent years and to provide insights into future reforms that could help move the state’s system forward.”
Mississippi received passing grades in some issue areas, like Freedom to Drive and Fines and Fees, which have been the subject of recent reforms passed by the legislature aimed at making it easier for people leaving prison to obtain a driver’s license and pay off their fees and fines.
The report was released on the heels of the 2021 legislative session, where criminal justice reform was a hot topic. The passage of Senate Bill 2795, which expanded parole eligibility in the state, had an impact on the state’s grade for its parole laws. While the state’s parole laws initially received a D, the passage of SB 2795 bumped the state up to a C in this area.
Latino said that the passage of this bill in 2021 shows that Mississippi can make progress to improve its justice system. “Grading Justice shows that our state’s criminal justice system is in great need of change, but it also shows that progress is possible.”
Other issue areas graded include Civil Asset Forfeiture (D), Body-Worn Cameras (F), Mandatory Minimum Sentences (D), and Expungement (D).
The full report is available at GradingJustice.org.
By Brett Kittredge
MageeNews.com is an online news source covering Simpson and surrounding counties as well as the State of Mississippi.