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New prison work initiative could be coming to Mississippi

The Mississippi legislature is currently considering a bill that would authorize the creation of a new work initiative in the state’s prisons.

Senate Bill 2437, authored by Senate Corrections Chairman Juan Barnett, would allow the creation of a pilot program at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF). Located in Rankin County, CMCF houses over 3,800 individuals – the largest population of any prison in the state.

The new program is aimed at improving work prospects for those leaving Mississippi prisons by allowing them to work while incarcerated and learn a trade or skill that they can utilize when reentering the community.

The legislation builds on years of efforts by Mississippi policymakers to reduce recidivism – the rate of people who end up returning to prison after release. Policymakers have focused on work in part because whether or not an individual has a job is one of the best predictors of whether they will end up returning to prison.

The work initiative aims to employ those incarcerated in positions that teach them marketable skills. Income earned by the participants will be deposited into a special account which can go towards paying fees or fines owed and family support obligations.

Maintaining gainful employment is crucial for reentry, but it’s also important while an individual is incarcerated. Meaningful work gives people a sense of dignity and purpose. Work opportunities are an important rehabilitative tool and should be expanded throughout the state’s prisons.

These opportunities can ensure that people leave prison better than when they went in – helping more people re-enter the workforce, saving taxpayer dollars, and improving public safety in Mississippi.

Update:The conference report has been adopted by the House and Senate and will soon be headed to the governor.

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