Opinion: A prisoner’s dilemma in Mississippi

Posted on Mar 20 2018 - 5:55am by Woody Dobson

On a national level, the American criminal justice system is full of uncertainty, although criminals are most often thrust into local correctional facilities and state prisons.

This puts a burden on state and local governments to deal with some of these criminal justice issues such as escapees and the ever-increasing concern of overcrowding. In our own state, Mississippi prisons appear to be going backwards in time by moving away from their goals of being rehabilitative resources for criminals and keeping the public safe from violent offenders.

Unfortunately, Mississippi prisons are degrading by national standards.

Correctional officers have a hard time managing prisoners with the nation’s lowest working pay, less than $27,000 per year. And the state’s maximum security prisons, such as Parchman Farm, have reached full capacity and keep filling up each year.

Furthermore, it appears that the Mississippi Department of Corrections not only failed to accomplish much in upgrading prison infrastructure in the last five years, but its failures played a key role in the escape of dangerous convicts in 2017.

Just this week, two inmates from Yazoo County were finally captured after escaping their local correctional institution, where they were serving sentences for multiple burglary charges from September 2017. This one case exemplifies the extent of Mississippi’s lack of involvement within the criminal justice system, because it took so long to catch these escaped violent criminals.

Without proper funding, judicial expertise and citizen involvement, the correctional system will remain in a purgatory-like state for years to come.

Though Mississippi correctional institutions have faced harsh barrages to the success or failure of the prison system, a light has surfaced at the end of the tunnel.

Impetus for correctional reform is finally gaining momentum in Mississippi. Drug courts and rehabilitation programs currently prepare the convicted for re-entry into daily life and are beginning to become the norm.

The Soldier-on program is just one example of a rehabilitation program provided by the Mississippi government to aid veterans who’ve been criminally charged. However, since the election of Donald Trump, the state’s prison budget has cut funding for rehabilitation programs tremendously.

Mississippi has a long road ahead of it to acquire true correctional reform. While federal budget cuts increase, the voices of many state citizens indicate strong support for future prison reform via financial adjustment policies.

Unfortunately, prisoners will continue to fill cells and abuse the hardworking state taxpayer. Without the voice of the people, the prison system will only continue to get worse and, eventually, will crumble to pieces.

Fixing Mississippi’s prisoners’ dilemma should be a No. 1 priority for future legislators.

Woody Dobson is a senior political science major from Tupelo.