Alternative Methods Sought to Reduce Inmate Numbers

prison_092611-thumb-640xauto-4264In a recent report, it was divulged that Mississippi taxpayers spend over $18,000 per year on each inmate in a minimum-security prison. Mississippi’s prison population has grown by roughly 17%, topping 22,600 inmates as of July 2013, and the state has the second highest imprisonment rate in the nation, costing taxpayers almost $340 million last  year. These numbers necessitate reforms to the policies around imprisonment, since prison expenditures will increase by $266 million over the next ten years.

“We cannot continue down the path we are on. By enacting these policies we will improve public safety by keeping violent and career criminals behind bars, putting the appropriate resources into alternatives for nonviolent offenders, and ensuring our citizens get the best results for their tax dollars,” said Gov. Phil Bryant at a press conference in Jackson.

According to Bolivar County Warden Ora Starks, she agrees with Bryant’s sentiments and has been attempting to institute alternative options to nonviolent offenders for rehabilitation and/or punishment. “If you try to decrease the number of individuals entering prison for nonviolent crimes it will be a very good thing but it all ultimately depends on the approach that you wish to take,” said Starks

Mississippi has several alternatives to imprisonment for non-violent offenders: non-adjudicated probation, house arrest, and probation among them. Non-adjudicated probation is a period of probation that, if successfully completed, results in expungement and no felony record. Probation is a sentence of community supervision and house arrest, which allows offenders to remain in their community under electronic monitoring.

Current statutory restrictions limit judges’ discretion in imposing non-prison sentences that often may be effective in reducing repeat offenses. “I have been meeting with various entities to start vocational programs at our facility that will save the state some tax dollars and possibly deter inmates from becoming repeat offenders,” she added. According to Starks, one alternative method in place is something called “drug court”. If they continue to incarcerate nonviolent offenders, then they’ll be back in a situation of overcrowded prisons.

Over the last decade, Mississippi has developed an expansive drug court system and now has a drug court in every circuit. However, current law restricts many nonviolent offenders whose criminal activity is driven by substance abuse/addiction and who would benefit from a highly regimented drug court program.

DUI Habitual Offenders: What are and How Severe are the Consequences?

DUI Pennsylvania Sign.What is a DUI habitual offender? Ronald Witt of Tigard, Oregon fits the definition, apparently. The habitual offender was recently sentenced to 27 months behind bars.

Witt has had prior DUI convictions, however, he wasn’t even drunk when he caused a crash that killed a 52-year old man from Washington state in August. However, at a court hearing last week, Witt showed up clearly smelling of alcohol, which the judge did not appreciate. Because Witt has at least three prior convictions for DUI and driving with a suspended/revoked license within the past five years, the state of Oregon labeled him as a habitual offender.

But what does being a habitual offender really mean and what are the consequences for DUI defendents?

What is a habitual offender?

A habitual offender is defined as someone who’s violated certain laws repeatedly over a certain period of time. In Oregon, three convictions over the past five years and those convictions can be for crimes such as:

  • DUI (which in Oregon is called DUII, or driving under the influence of intoxicants);
  • Driving with a suspended or revoked license;
  • Reckless driving; or
  • Homicide (including manslaughter, murder, negligent homicide, or vehicular homicide).

However, the number and convictions vary from state to state. So it’s prudent for anyone to check their respective state’s habitual offender laws to be sure.

What are the consequences of being labeled as a habitual offender?

Being labeled as a habitual offender can lead to serious legal ramifications. Among them being:

  • License revocation. While a license can be revoked with a single offense, the penalty is harsher with repeated offenses. For example, Oregon will revoke your license for five years if you’re a habitual offender.
  • Harsher penalties can vary from state to state, however in many states, being a habitual offender can lead to much harsher sentences. For example, a habitual DUI offender in Florida was sentenced to ten years and ten months in prison for a fatal DUI. Multiple DUIs can also lead to increased fines, vehicle confiscation, or an even longer license revocation period.
  • Automatic Felony DUI charges are also a possibility. If you have multiple DUI convictions (or even just one prior DUI in New York), you could automatically face a felony DUI charge if you’re caught driving drunk again.


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