Senate Bill 2795, also known as the “Mississippi Earned Parole Eligibility Act”, has passed the legislature and been signed by the governor into law and will take effect on July 1, 2021. Prior to this law, prisoners convicted of a "crime of violence” as defined by statute were not eligible for parole but were only eligible for earned release supervision after serving 50% of their sentence. This was commonly referred to as “good time” and was completely distinct from parole. In Mississippi, the parole board is not a part of MDOC. They are separate entities. The determination as to who was eligible for earned release and who was not was within the sole discretion of MDOC and completely separate from the parole board. The new parole law changes that system.
The new law provides that violent offenders are eligible for parole after serving 50% of their sentence or twenty years, whichever is shorter. The exceptions to this are persons convicted of first or second-degree murder, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and habitual offenders, who remain ineligible for parole. There are a few crimes like armed robbery that require the inmate to serve at least 60% of their sentence. The law also mandates that violent offenders must have a parole hearing before being released. That means there will be a forum in which evidence supporting and contesting release will be considered.
The law also contains a significant change for non-violent offenders. Any inmate that has not been convicted of a “crime of violence” may petition the trial court for parole eligibility after serving only 25% of their sentence. This is important for habitual drug offenders. Non-violent offenders are generally parole eligible after serving 25% but habitual offenders must serve their entire sentence “day for day.” Under the old law, non-violent habitual offenders did not have any legal avenue for judicial leniency as the trial court lacked jurisdiction to amend its sentence. The new law provides that avenue for leniency by permitting non-violent habitual offenders to petition the sentencing judge for parole eligibility after serving a quarter of their sentence.
Senate Bill 2795 constitutes a fundamental shift in the parole rules and procedures in the State of Mississippi. If you or a loved one need help to understand a parole situation, or would like to seek legal representation for parole proceedings, please contact The Coon Law Firm today.