Mississippi Department of Corrections, Budget Cuts & Plea Negotiations
The cost of housing inmates is substantial, and I find it encouraging in these slow economic times that MDOC plans to increase the number of inmates in "alternative" incarceration (such as house arrest). The Department's own figures show that these programs are substantially less expensive than traditional incarceration. According to MDOC numbers from the 2007 fiscal year housing an inmate at Parchman costs $45.48 per day, while the Intensive Supervision Program (house arrest) costs just $9.96 per day. Clearly a cost savings of $35.52 per day (Yes, I did the math for you.) is substantial. The cost difference between housing an inmate for one year in Parchman versus one year on house arrest? $12,964.80.
About 300 state inmates will be removed from county jails, 154 from regional jails and 50 from private prisons beginning as early as January as the Mississippi Department of Corrections trims its budget by $6.5 million.
MDOC will further reduce cost by increasing the number of inmates on house arrest and parole. Roughly 1,225 inmates are on house arrest and 3,000 are on parole.
"We have sent a list of 2,900 nonviolent inmates to the Parole Board," Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said of those who could be considered for early parole.
Why is this story important? First, I certainly support the early release of inmates to cut costs - in fact, I'd support the decision even if we weren't in a terrible economic crises. Second, I represent clients charged with various felonies, many of whom are eligible for house arrest. Further, in many of those cases house arrest may be the desired outcome for my client (and for the taxpayer!). In those cases where plea negotiations are appropriate, this decision by MDOC may prove to be an additional bargaining tool with the prosecutor or judge.