Senate passes ‘Criminal Justice Reform Act’

A criminal justice reform bill is advancing at the Capitol.

Today, the state Senate passed an amended version of the ‘Criminal Justice Reform Act’ (HB 1352) after the bill originated and passed through the House in early February.

According to Empower Mississippi, the bill includes provisions that will expand drug courts in Mississippi and reduce barriers to employment for people leaving the state’s prison system. Sponsored by Representative Jason White, the bill allows for more people with nonviolent offenses to apply for a one-time expungement to improve their chances to find a job upon reentering the community.

Empower’s President Grant Callen thanked the Mississippi Senate and other state leaders for supporting the criminal justice reform measure.

“These reforms are common-sense measures that will reduce the rate of recidivism in our state, help more people find meaningful work, and create safer communities for everyone,” Callen said. “We want to thank Governor Phil Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, Chairman Briggs Hopson, and Senator Juan Barnett for their work on this legislation.”

Callen went on to say that reform to the criminal justice system will benefit Mississippi.

“We are optimistic that the legislature is committed to continuing the process of reforming our criminal justice system. Empower Mississippi remains committed to supporting these reforms that will remove barriers to work for the people of our state while protecting public safety and taxpayers.,” he said.

Mississippi’s push for reform mirrors the efforts in D.C. after the bipartisan ‘First Step Act’ was signed into law by President Trump in December.

Governor Bryant and President Trump hosted a roundtable discussion on criminal justice reform when the President was in Mississippi in 2018, and the Governor praised lawmakers efforts in passing this bill.

“Thank you to the state senators who voted today for the Right on Crime Bill. This will allow non-violent offenders to get the training they need to get a job once they serve their time. The violent & dangerous criminals will stay in prison,” he tweeted.

Related: Trump talks prison reform during Mississippi visit

The bill now heads back to the House to either concur on the Senate’s changes, or the bill will be sent to conference. That decision must be made before March 22nd.