Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Criminal Justice "Reform Bill" Is Unsafe for Communities and Unsafe for Offenders

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey penned this column. 

There is much debate and controversy over recently vetoed Senate Bill 2123, known as the  “Mississippi Correctional Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2020”. The title of the bill sounds great but a majority in our legislature did nothing but use the cloak of “Criminal Justice Reform” to slash MDOC’s budget and divert millions to other parts of the state budget. This is completely unfair to our law-abiding citizens and even more unfair to the unprepared inmates who are released straight onto a path to failure.


I have several reasons for opposing  SB2123 but the two main reasons are: 1. a blanket approach to releasing all unprepared eligible offenders will do nothing but increase the crime rate in our communities and 2. MDOC is completely underfunded and unprepared to educate/counsel offenders or even begin to submit valid recommendations to the parole board on who they think is prepared to be released.

This bill would allow non-violent offenders to be eligible for parole after serving only 25% of their sentence and most violent offenders to be eligible for parole after serving only 50% of their sentence. My huge issue with this is there is no proven or successful reentry program already in place to prepare offenders for release.

Senate Bill 2123 is just another way some in the legislature are disguising the saving of money in MDOC as criminal justice reform. They want the citizens of Mississippi to think that they believe “everyone deserves a second chance” so they are going to let thousands of inmates, some violent, and hope that they make it. If this was truly the case you would see the money, millions of dollars being reinvested into MDOC employees and successful inmate reentry programs. I ask any to check the track record of the legislature, you will see that not even a fraction of the millions saved in previous “criminal justice reform” programs has been reinvested, but has gone back into the state general fund and allocated to other budgets.

In 2014 the legislature passed the warm and fuzzy “Criminal Justice Reform” bill, HB 585. This legislation reduced the state prison population and saved the state millions of dollars. What the legislature and advocate groups won’t tell you is all this bill did was pass the cost of housing these inmates down to the counties and cities by watering several felonies down to misdemeanors. What should make everyone mad, especially prisoner advocates, is the millions upon millions saved from passage of HB 585 was never reinvested in the MDOC or inmate programs. If the legislature had the heart and passion for true criminal justice reform it would have invested in the employees of the Department of Corrections  and implemented cutting-edge reentry/education programs for the inmates. It would have funded the hiring of highly-trained staff such as counselors, teachers, and mental health professions. A well-paid highly trained staff could review thousands of prisoners and develop individual plans for each inmate. After inmates reached certain benchmarks in their program, the qualified employees could make knowledgeable and well informed recommendations to the Parole Board. If the legislature had done the right thing and re-invested the millions saved into legitimate reform programs, SB 2123 would even be necessary today.

Senate Bill 2123 is not about reform but is instead a temporary fix for a permanent problem. It’s about saving money and avoiding a federal lawsuit for such poor facilities and dangerously low staff. Maybe that is exactly what we need! Federal Intervention to MAKE the legislature invest in MDOC and inmates. This type of legislation is not reform, it’s not about helping inmates, and it’s about the money. The Parole Board will be pressured to release as many as possible to reduce the numbers. Money saved will not be kept in MDOC.  MDOC is so underpaid and understaffed there is no possible way it can have enough quality relationships with inmates to “mine for the gold”. In my opinion, the Parole Board will rubber stamp most who are eligible and begin releasing them unprepared back into our society.

Now for those of you who don’t know me and think that I am a hard-nosed rigid Republican Sheriff who doesn’t believe in second chances, I would like to tell you what Rankin County has been doing for the past 8 years. I was once one of those hard headed lawmen that believed in “locking them up and throwing away the key”. God changed my heart after taking office in 2012. I am now a top advocate for criminal justice reform, true criminal justice reform/rehabilitation. I am all for 2nd chances. Through a cooperative effort between the sheriff’s office, the district attorney’s office and our judges, we began the “sheriff’s trusty program”. In this program, mostly non-violent offenders along with their attorneys agreed to serve a term of up to 5 years in the trusty program. At the end of their agreed term, they appear before a judge and plead guilty to time served and are released. While in the program they are required to take many different classes and counseling. Some of the classes offered are, Drug/Alcohol Recovery, GED programs, HS Diploma programs, money management, life skills, anger management and more. Some have even been able to take online college courses during their time with us. With the help of the community, churches, schools and businesses, we do our best to make sure the men and women who participate are equipped to WIN when they are released. We have an approximate 50% success rate with our program. I along with other county departments and local businesses have hired many who went through our program and they are model employees. When an inmate in our program is released, we make sure they have a driver’s license, a decent job, a decent and safe place to live. We have even been able to help some get furniture, clothes and vehicles. We try to set them up a few steps ahead instead of miles behind.

REAL REFORM is EXPENSIVE and is going to cost MILLIONS!!!  Throwing a bunch of inmates out on the street and hoping for the best that is unfair and dangerous for everyone. If they are not prepared, most will fail and be right back in jail or prison. Why hasn’t the legislature taken some of the millions saved and started programs to help the men and women in our prisons? Why hasn't MDOC partnered with our community colleges, trade schools or local business to teach these men and women a trade that they can use to have a successful life? Why have they not made more money available for the more inmate curriculum like H.S. Diploma/GED programs, Life skills programs, money management, college courses while they are incarcerated? Give them an opportunity to better themselves while they are locked up. Those that take advantage of it and complete the programs get priority with the Parole Board. We sow more into them and do our best to help them get anything and everything they need when they get out, we don’t stop once they walk out the door.

The payoff for society and the taxpayer is on the back end when those that are properly trained and prepared are released and never return to prison.

Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey






25 comments:

Wisdom from Jules said...

It all comes down to this:

Ezekiel 25:17 "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime."

Anonymous said...

He’s right, you know....

Anonymous said...

Glad Tate vetoed it. Mississippians Lives Matter! MLM

Anonymous said...

Should we really consider the opinion of a cog in the machine of the Prison Industrial Complex?

Anonymous said...

Breaking News: “Republican” Sheriff calls for federal takeover of prison system and billions in dollars of new spending on government programs.

Anonymous said...

Mississippians Lives Matter, my new motto!

Anonymous said...

People who work for the government always have the same answer to every problem: more of your money will fix it. Whether it's a local sheriff or an administrator in the department of education, they've never seen a problem that didn't require more tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

Cool story bro

Anonymous said...

The real answer is long sentences and hard time for repeat offenders on penal farms or prison factories. We can have them manufacture the cheap crap that Chinese prisoners are making for big profits to the CCP.

Anonymous said...

11:02, slavery is never the answer.

Anonymous said...

I concur with the Sheriff’s point of view. The legislature is creating a huge problem by neglecting not only MDOC and the need for adequate funding, but more so by requiring judges to impose more lenient sentences and the release of inmates after serving only a slight portion of their sentence, all in the name of saving money. How much is saved when a violent criminal is released from prison after serving 25% of their sentence and then kills someone or burglarizes an occupied dwelling. Are you willing to step up and say, “I will pay now.” Too late for the loved ones whose life was forfeited all in the name of saving tax payers money. Incarcerating violent felons is the best investment our government can make. Recidivism is a big problem and smart money spent on programs to help an inmate with a job skill or housing is a positive step. Unfortunately, people have to take responsibility for the choices in life and the government can not provide for all one’s needs.

Anonymous said...

A good start would be paying corrections officers more than $25k a year so we don’t just have gang members girlfriends serving as COs.

Anonymous said...

It’s not slavery if they have a choice. It was their choice to commit a felony, so they get to work it off.

Anonymous said...

What is the cost of NOT doing something? If a violent offender gets turned out on the streets with no prospect for employment or place to live and kills someone for their wallet, and that person made $50,000 a year and had 15 more years of work left before retirement, it just costed society $750,000. Then add in $40,000 a year to house the inmate say, for 10 years, and you're quickly over a million dollars in costs, just for that one inmate. And what about people who would have been helped by that million dollars who now might fall through the cracks? What about the victim's kids? Are you going to put them through college or are they going to enter the workforce at a lower pay (and spin off lower tax revenue)? The downstream costs of writing people off just keep building and building.

Now, compared with that, how much does it cost to teach them how to balance a checkbook and learn how to weld?

Anonymous said...

@11:54 doesn't work for UNICEF and it won't work here. Violent animals need to be kept in cages.

Anonymous said...

I have met several of the inmates in Rankin County Jail. They all spoke favorably of the way they were treated and said the Sheriff was tough but fair as long as they followed the rules. I believe his program is good for the inmate and good for the public.

Anonymous said...

That's it. Point your finger at the judicial/corrections system rather than the dirt bags that commit the crime.

Anonymous said...

12:36
It all about who is screwing who up there!

Anonymous said...

Awe Monday morning quarterback hicks . Interesting why haven’t we heard this valuable opinion back in January?

Anonymous said...

@3:40
Yup. You can even get kidneys!

Anonymous said...

3:42 -- you just had your ears closed in January. And last year. And years before that.

This is not new on the part of this particular sheriff or a few others in the arena.

You must be a member of the Legislature - they never hear anything that is said that they don't want to hear.

Anonymous said...

Why even sentence the thugs to prison if they are automatically only going to spend 25% or 50% of the time they are given?
Why not just spat them on the hand and let them go back on preying on the citizens?

Anonymous said...

While I understand the Sheriff's position, from a financial perspective, there our society has to make some real choices. It cost money to house an inmate, lost of money. Additionally, that a person that is not working, contributing to social security, a person that not taking care of their kids, a person that has a net value on society. The pandemic is not going to help government budgets. Its going to get tighter. Financially every household has to make financially choices. Its called budgeting. So we have to decide who do we want to pay to lock-up. Yes, its wrong to cash a bad check. It wrong to cash multiple bad checks. But does that mean society wants to pay over $20000 a year for every person that keeps writing bad checks. Not that any person should give a free pass, but we cant afford to jail every person. People who are a real threat, people who shoot people, people who rape woman and children, people who mug old people, those people who are so bad that it doesnt matter what it cost, the only way we sleep comfortably, is when those bad people are in a jail cell away from the rest of us.

The former alderman from Canton who got 15 years for voter fraud, was that worth the cost to society? Would one year of jail have sent a sufficient message and cost the rest of us awhole lot less. State of Mississippi needs uniform sentencing guidelines so regardless of what county you are in, you have a similar sentence. That would help criminal justice reform in Mississippi more than anything else at this point. And would give you Hinds County bashers less reason to complain.

Anonymous said...

@9:06 She wasn’t convicted of voter fraud. She was convicted of witness intimidation.

What about the fact all the trial witnesses were shot at in the canton case? Every single witness in a witness intimidation case got a bullet in their home or car during the trial and you really wonder why she got prison time.



You must be her lawyer

Anonymous said...

I agree that criminals need to be locked up for LONG sentences for violent offences (murder; rape; stabbings (or do some get house arrest?). I know the sheriff is trying to do good by the trustees and look toward their future but what about his employees? The pay of the patrol officers and correctional officers is just plain sad. Don't you think the sheriff would want to do more for his loyal employees? I know JJ does not like gossip so I'ma just say that I'm sure a few employees up there got a real bad taste in their mouth. Dirt bags are dirt bags. Do we really believe that if an inmate says "I'll never do bad again" or "I believe Jesus washed away my sins"? Do you want to bet your retirement on those quotes (those who do make an honest living). Heck NO.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

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There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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