Greg Malone, November 2019Back in 1995, most Mississippi prisoners were eligible for parole. Since then, waves of incoming legislatures have progressively removed parole rights from more and more groups of prisoners, until there is very little parole eligibility left. Greg Malone analyses what is left of Parole law as it stands at the end of 2019.
MS 47-7-3 is the key statute which determines who is and isn’t eligible to seek parole in Mississippi.
It 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.
Since its original drafting, however, numerous clauses and subclauses have been added to this opening clause. We have lived through several decades during which the prevailing view was that ‘tough on crime’ – expressed with ever longer sentences and no second chances – was good for public safety and even better for political ambitions. Each legislature removed parole rights from one category of offender after another, until very few now remain. Some of those that do remain apply only to tiny numbers of prisoners sentenced before 1995, or between particular dates.
The legislation as it stands now is labyrinthine as a result of these amendments – a succession of exclusions and counter-exclusions and exceptions and special refusals. The table below sets out our understanding of this law on parole eligibility as it stands now, at the end of 2019. 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 may criminals who are unable or unwilling to reform. But some will be people who change and reform during their time in prison, who turn their lives around, experience remorse and would capable of returning to society and making a real contribution.
The few categories of prisoner which are NOT absolutely excluded from parole by the end of the statute are highlighted in green. Note that most of these “green” rows ONLY refer to prisoners sentenced between particular dates, and by no means to all prisoners convicted of the crimes described.
Kids With 47 Years is campaigning to return the statute to its simple, transparent form, applicable to all, 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…