Two common responses to the problems Mississippi faces with its prison system have been to provide a massive infusion of funding, which is an unlikely move given the state’s reluctance to increase taxes, and freeing nonviolent offenders.
A recent letter to the editor printed in the Commercial Dispatch raises legitimate concerns regarding the latter solution. In it, Kerry Blalock claims that an elderly relative was conned out of a quarter million dollars and that four of the five people convicted for the crime are already out of prison. All five are drug addicts. Blalock’s relative will never be made right by those who stole from him.
Two issues immediately arise: shy of restitution, what punishment should be exacted from nonviolent criminals? Second, because state-provided mental health services and addiction treatment are as underfunded as the prison system, I think it’s fair to anticipate that the recidivism rate for those convicted of drug-related, nonviolent crimes would be high. How can the state protect those with property from those who would steal it to fuel their addictions?