The table below summarises our reading of the key statute MS 47-7-3, which determines who is and isn’t eligible to seek parole in Mississippi.
The statute begins with a general statement which appears to grant the possibility of parole for all prisoners who have served 25% of their sentence, or, in the case of prisoners sentenced to more than 30 years or to life imprisonment, who have served 10 years. What follows, however, systematically removes these rights from one category of offender after another, until very few remain.
Those whom we believe to be fully excluded from parole are highlighted in black in the table. We recognise that these many rows relate to serious crimes and some of those committing them are criminals who are unable or unwilling to reform. But some will be people who change and reform during their time in prison, who experience remorse and would capable of returning to society.
The few categories of prisoner which are NOT excluded from parole by the end of the statute are highlighted in green.
As is clear from the above, the statute is immensely complex, tangled by a series of amendments, reversals, restatements. We are not lawyers, and it is possible that we have read it incorrectly – we would welcome correspondence or comments on this matter from anyone with legal knowledge.
We would like to see the statute reduced to its simple, transparent form, as set out in its opening clause:
Every prisoner who has been convicted of any offense against the State of Mississippi, and is confined in the execution of a judgment of such conviction in the Mississippi Department of Corrections for a definite term or terms of one (1) year or over, or for the term of his or her natural life, whose record of conduct shows that such prisoner has observed the rules of the department, and who has served not less than one-fourth ( 1/4) of the total of such term or terms for which such prisoner was sentenced, or, if sentenced to serve a term or terms of thirty (30) years or more, or, if sentenced for the term of the natural life of such prisoner, has served not less than ten (10) years of such life sentence, may be released on parole as hereinafter provided…