Mississippi’s excessive use of supervision overloads supervision agents and makes it difficult for individuals to be appropriately supervised in the community. Additionally, the five-year limit is longer than necessary for most offenses. The graduated sanction policy could be improved by ensuring that failed drug tests and technical violations of supervision don’t result in re-incarceration.
Appropriate use of supervision
With over 25,000 people on community supervision in the state, 140% of the incarcerated population, Mississippi’s use of probation reflects an over-reliance on community supervision, which yields diminishing returns for public safety. Although probation was intended as an alternative to incarceration, judges in Mississippi routinely add probation terms to the end of prison sentences.
Duration and extent of supervision
Mississippi allows for probation sentences of up to five years. While any limit is positive, five years is excessive in most cases, with the majority of recidivism happening within two years of release. Further, this can be extended by courts who seek to impose further supervision beyond normal probation.
Mississippi’s fees are a flat $55 per month for supervision, and $85 per month for those on electronic monitoring. Hardship waivers can be granted at the discretion of the department, but there are no guidelines for how these can be used or how an individual’s means must be considered, and waivers are rarely granted. Nonpayment can be used as a justification for revocation.
Sanction and revocation policy
Mississippi has implemented a system of graduated sanction to prevent automatic reincarceration for minor technical violations while on supervision. The state has also established technical violation centers to house individuals who might otherwise be sent to prison for supervision violations. However, the majority of revocations to prison in 2020 were for technical violations. The policy still allows for re-incarceration for failure to report, and could be improved by clarifying that individuals should only be re-incarcerated when committing a new crime.