By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON — Both Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood said they believe that changes to the state’s criminal justice system need to be enacted during the 2014 session to control costs while ensuring the people who are truly dangerous to society get long prison sentences.
“This is not about being soft on crime,” Bryant said Wednesday at his Public Safety Works Summit attended by law enforcement from across the state at a Jackson hotel. “It is about how to better manage our assets while at the same time taking dangerous people off the street.”
Bryant has said that he wants the focus of the 2014 legislative session to be public safety. In doing that, the Republican governor said state officials must be mindful that the budget for the Department of Corrections has increased 133 percent during the last 20 years and at the current trend will grow from $361 million to more than $500 billion within the next decade.
Hood, a Chickasaw County native, said he believes both Republicans and Democrats are on board to tackle “a wide spectrum” of civil justice issues. He said as a former district attorney in Northeast Mississippi he used to think “you had to lock them up and throw away the key,” but he said for some people there needs to be more of a effort to provide jobs training, drug addiction counseling and the use of punishments other than prison, such as house arrest and confinement in halfway houses where the offender can work.
He also said that over a long period of time he has come to the conclusion that pre-kindergarten will do more to prevent crime than perhaps any other tool the state has.