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Senate Discusses Fate of Mississippi State Penitentiary

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PARCHMAN, Miss.–Discussions about possibly phasing out operations at Parchman and eventually closing Mississippi State Penitentiary made it to the Senate Corrections Committee Tuesday.

“The phase out of Parchman is not simply the shutting down of a building, it’s about fundamentally reimagining our approach to incarceration and rehabilitation,” said State Sen. Juan Barnett, reading a prepared statement. He is the author of the bill and also serves as the chair of the Senate Corrections committee, thus overseeing the bill’s journey through the committee.
“Ut is about investing in communities, addressing root causes of crime and creating pathways to redemption for those who have made mistakes,” he said.
Barnett led a discussion of his plan, which calls for the closure of the prison in increments, a process that he believes would not cost the Delta any jobs. He said conversations have already begun about acquiring the private prison at Tutwiler, about 15 minutes north of Parchman, to become the new state prison in the Delta.
“Therefore we would lose no state jobs. Part of the operations at Parchman would move to this facility. The jobs would be protected,” he said. “I don’t want a bill out there that would take one single job from those people in the Delta.”
The phase out would come with a projected cost of $100 million and would take four years, with some prisoners being moved to other facilities around the state.
Barnett said he believes if the state does not get ahead of overcrowding and rising costs the Justice Department will step in.
The matter was tabled for now, but the next step, should it pass the Corrections Committee, is for it to move on to Appropriations, which is where the cost will be hashed out.