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Mississippi among states with highest incarceration rate

Reported by: Tyler Hill
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Updated: 8/01/2013 10:38 am
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) — Mississippi's prison facilities are more full than ever before.

According to a new report by the Bureau of Justice statistics, Mississippi ranks second in the nation for the most incarcerated citizens, closely following Louisiana.

In 2012, the number of incarcerated citizens in the United States decreased by roughly 28,000 prisoners from the previous year.

But in Mississippi, the prison population continues to increase and shows no signs of slowing down.

"It's gonna continue to pose a problem, because before long, we're gonna have our facilities at max capacity," said Brand Huffman, Chickasaw Correctional Facility Warden.

According to the study, from 2011 to 2012, the number of prisoners in the state increased by nearly 1,000 inmates.

Huffman said his prison always remains at full capacity.

He said part of the problem is repeat offenders and that state facilities need to focus on educating the inmates so they may have a chance to prosper in society.

"Some of the offenders, when they come in, have never achieved anything," Huffman said. "So we need to [help them] get that first certificate, that GED certificate. That gives them a little encouragement in hopes that they can go forward."

Edward Byron has served over 14 years in prison and will be released later this year.

He said, based on the things he has witnessed through the years, facilities should focus on positive reinforcements to have less repeat offenders.

"When somebody does something good, it's more of a 'Hey, that's a good job. Now do it again,'" Byron said. "That goes a long way to establish those good habits."

Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said county jails are also having problems with overpopulation.

He said there are many contributing factors to the high levels, but poverty is a major driving force.

"I think people use desperate means to survive," Johnson said.

According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, it cost nearly $50 a day to house an inmate, but Johnson said the solution to lowering the incarceration levels shouldn't be releasing prisoners simply due to the cost.

"That's putting individuals that have been caught and convicted of a crime back into society," he said. "That message, in itself, is going to create a problem."

Byron said the solution should be focusing on rehabilitating the inmates instead of locking them up and throwing away the key.

"Get them to stop the bad habits," Byron explained. "At the same time, start those good habits and encourage them to do the right things instead of the wrong things."

The study also shows that males are much more likely to be incarcerated than females.

In Mississippi, over 19,000 men were in prison in 2012, compared to only 1,500 women.
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