We are seeking support from professionals working in law, academia, law enforcement, corrections and other fields connected to criminal justice, to help our campaign to open up parole rights in Mississippi
Petition for criminal justice professionals >>>
General public petition >>>
Why two petitions? We hope to use the two petitions to demonstrate different things. Our general petition hosted by Change.org is intended to demonstrate to legislators the support that we have from across a wide spectrum of the public, both in Mississippi and around the world. Our specialist petition is intended to show the legislators that this concern comes not only from people moved by this issue on personal or humanitarian grounds, but also from people with direct professional knowledge and experience in this field.
What’s the problem with the law?
The Mississippi statute that deals with parole eligibility, MS 47-7-3, begins with a really clear, helpful statement, which declares that all prisoners who observe prison rules and have served a quarter of their sentence (or, for long-sentence prisoners, ten years), are eligible to seek parole.
Sadly, this promising beginning is a bit of a smoke-screen.
What follows immediately after this opening are 17 labyrinthine clauses and sub-clauses, which build up a latticework of reversals, exceptions, exclusions and contingencies which progressively exclude most categories of offender from parole eligibility.
What are we campaigning for?
We are campaigning for those supplementary ‘wrecking’ clauses simply to be repealed, leaving a level playing field for all offenders as set out in the opening statement of the legislation. This would not require the state to release any individual prisoner, but would allow the parole board to release any prisoner who had completed a period of punishment and who had reformed.
What would this achieve?
Opening up parole to all offenders after a period of punishment, as envisaged in the opening of MS 47-7-3, would, at a stroke:
– Give scope for dangerous or unrepentant offenders to be incarcerated for their full term where this is in the public interest
– Avoid the unnecessary and damaging detention of offenders who have reformed and whose detention serves no further purpose
– Avoid the situation where the youngest offenders prisoners face the longest sentences
– Help to address the issue of mass incarceration and the associated costs for the whole community
– Promote rehabilitation by restoring hope and the incentive for reform
There is ample evidence that these results can be achieved without compromising public safety. For an excellent summary of this see the Sentencing Project paper Long-Term Sentences: Time to Reconsider the Scale of Punishment. The vast use of long-term sentences in the U.S. is an anomaly by international standards. It has not led to lower recidivism rates or lower crime rates. A need for a reversal of mass incarceration is increasingly being recognised. The simple measure of giving all prisoners access to parole after a period of punishment would go a little way towards achieving this.
What help are we looking for?
If you work or have experience of working in or around the criminal justice system, as a lawyer, practitioner, corrections officer or academic, please sign our specialist petition.
If you do not work in this field, but wish to support this cause, please sign our general petition.
If you are a practising or academic lawyer or other legal specialist, we would value your help in checking our analysis of the law – please make contact with us.
If you have political experience or contacts, we would value your help in getting our proposals in front of relevant legislators please make contact with us.
There are many other ways you can help. If you would like to become more involved in other ways, please contact us.