GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - When the 2020 Legislative Session opens this week in Jackson, one of the very first topics lawmakers will tackle is the Mississippi’s prison crisis.
Senator Joel Carter serves on the Corrections Committee. He recognizes that there are longstanding issues with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, and not everything can be fixed at once. But to him, one of the most obvious solutions is better funding.
“The only way to fix this is money, period,” Carter told WLOX News. “Mississippi is in great financial shape right now, we just have to be responsible about it.”
Carter believes there will be an attempt to put money into the State Penitentiary at Parchman to make it safer, as well as an increase in guard pay.
“The guards are underpaid, and the pay isn’t worth it. They’re only paid $25,000 and money is always an issue,” Carter said.
Governor-Elect Tate Reeves acknowledged Friday, “There is much work to be done in our correctional system.”
“Grateful to those working to restore order and safety. That is the first priority. Then we need answers and justice on the people who perpetrated this violence. Any loss of life is tragic and must be addressed,” Reeves said in a statement. “There is much work to be done in our correctional system. Until the transition, we will be working to get more information and offering our assistance to the current leadership.”
The legislative session begins Tuesday in Jackson. Below are some of our recent conversations with other state lawmakers looking ahead to 2020′s legislative priorities. (Note: These interviews were all conducted before the recent MDOC crisis.)