2019 Criminal Justice Reform Legislative Agenda
Cash bail is one of the most corrupt and broken parts of the justice system. It lets the size of a person’s wallet determine whether a person – who has been accused, but not convicted of a crime – can return home or stay locked up in jail while awaiting their day in court. Mississippi’s cash bail system punishes those who are too poor to pay. Legislation that we are advocating for ensures that bail is not used as a penalty, and is the last resort for ensuring court appearance. The amendments will help save precious taxpayer dollars while also providing the autonomy judges need to reasonably determine the most effective way to ensure the accused’s return to court.
POLICIES FOR BODY-WORN CAMERAS BY LAW ENFORCEMENT: HB 1005 - REFERRED TO HOUSE JUD B. SB 2371 - REFERRED TO SENATE JUD A.
Body cameras have the potential to serve as a check against the abuse of power by police officers. They are a win-win, helping to protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time guarding against false accusations of abuse. Without a comprehensive policy in place that includes provisions for citizens’ privacy, transparency, and accountability, body cameras can serve as another police surveillance tool. We are advocating for legislation that ensures that body cameras will serve to protect the public, without becoming another system for routine surveillance. While our legislation will not mandate that all Mississippi law enforcement officers be equipped with body cameras, it will ensure sure that those that are equipped will do so within a framework of strong policies.
WRITTEN CONSENT TO SEARCH VEHICLES AND POLICIES FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT BODY CAMERAS: HB 992 - Referred to House Jud B.
Police search thousands of cars each year at Mississippi traffic stops, usually looking for guns or drugs, through a simple request for a driver to consent. Drivers often don’t know that they can say no, or may feel coerced and isolated by the side of the road. However, law enforcement does not need permission to search a car if there is evidence of reasonable suspicion of a crime. The ACLU of Mississippi is advocating for legislation to ensure that drivers understand their constitutional right to say no to a request to search by requiring written consent with a simple disclosure. This will cover instances when an officer doesn’t have a warrant, is not making an arrest, or does not have probable cause. Written consent improves policing as well as protects public safety and civil liberties.
Here are the Criminal Justice Reform bills we're tracking this legislative session:
section 37-11-69, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide that a school, school district and any person who fails to report bullying as required by law may be held civilly liable for any damages relating from such failure; to amend sections 37-3-101 and 37-3-103, Mississippi code of 1972, to include bullying in suicide prevention education; to amend section 97-3-7, Mississippi code of 1972, to include bullying in the criminal provision for simple assault; and for related purposes.
Description: Bullying Deterrent Act; create.
Our Position: All children deserve to feel safe at schools and be protected. This bill will help to keep students protected in instances of bullying.
HB 276 - To provide that any person who makes a request of an agency for a declaratory opinion may make the request electronically or in writing; to require each agency to include instructions on its website detailing how an electronic request of an agency for a declaratory opinion may be made and what information must be contained in each such request; to require an agency to establish the proper online portals to allow a person to submit an electronic request for a declaratory opinion; to amend section 10 41-7-205, Mississippi code of 1972, to conform to the provisions of this act; and for related purposes.
Description: Declaratory opinion; permit electronic submission of requests for.
Our Position: This bill gives the option of electronic request and submission for declaratory opinions, expanding access to the public.
HB 277 - An act to create the "Mississippi minimum wage law"; to establish the state minimum wage at $8.25 per hour; to provide that employers with tipped employees are exempt from the requirement to pay the state minimum wage; to establish guidelines for employees entitled to overtime pay; to bring forward sections Mississippi code of 1972, for purposes of possible amendment; and for related purposes.
Description: Minimum wage; establish at $8.35 and set requirements for exemptions and overtime.
Our Position: This legislation will increase minimum wage to $8.35 from $7.25. The current minimum wage is inadequate and has systematic consequences, most notably its disproportionate effect our people of color. If passed, this bill would be a step toward in poverty the economic injustice faced by the people of color and lessen racial wealth inequality.
HB 289 - An act to create the "women's economic security act"; to establish the state minimum wage at fifteen dollars per hour; to provide that employers with tipped employees are exempt from the requirement to pay the state minimum wage; to establish guidelines for employees entitled to overtime pay; to provide that no employer shall pay an employee a wage at a rate less than the rate at which an employee of the opposite sex in the same establishment is paid for equal work on a job, the performance of which requires equal skill, effort and responsibility, and which is performed under similar working conditions; to provide that an employee may file a petition in the proper circuit court; to create the Mississippi community college for single mothers scholarship grant; to provide that the Mississippi community college board shall administer the grant; to provide the criteria for receiving the grant; to create the Mississippi IHL for single mothers scholarship grant; to provide that the Mississippi postsecondary education financial assistance board shall administer the grant; to provide the criteria for receiving the grant; to amend section 19 37-13-171, Mississippi code of 1972, to require sex-related education to consist of any medically accurate comprehensive instruction or program; to include additional required teaching components of abstinence-only and abstinence-plus education curriculums; to delete the repealer on the provision of law that requires each local school board to adopt a sex-related education policy to implement abstinence-only or abstinence-plus education into its local school district's curriculum; to bring forward 27 sections 7-7-204, 17-1-51, 23-15-239, 25-3-40, 37-7-307, 57-34-5, 28 85-3-4, 97-3-54.4 and 99-19-20, Mississippi code of 1972, for purposes of possible amendment; and for related purposes.
Description: Women’s Economic Security Act; create.
Our Position: This legislation would address discrimination in pay based on gender, close the gender wage gap and increase access to traditionally male occupations.
HB 310 - An act to authorize the issuance of a hardship driver's license to a person whose license has been suspended as a result of being out of compliance with an order for support; to require a person to establish proof of hardship; to amend section 63-1-43, Mississippi code of 1972, to establish a fee for a hardship license and provide that a person holding a hardship license may only drive to work and religious services; to amend section, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide that the term of a hardship license shall be four years; to amend sections 63-1-5 and, Mississippi code of 1972, in conformity with the provisions of this act; and for related purposes.
Description: Driver’s license; authorize issuance of hardship license to persons who have their licenses suspended as a result of being out of compliance with order for support.
Our Position: The criminalization of poverty perpetuates poverty, and counterproductive license suspensions are a clear example. This bill will allow hardship waivers for those who cannot afford to make child support payments so that they can get to and from work. Courts should look at a person’s ability to pay child support and the impact suspension of a driver’s licenses would have on the person’s ability to pay.
HB 311 - An act to amend section 99-19-71, Mississippi code of 1972, to revise the list of felonies that may be expunged; and for related purposes.
Description: Expungement; revise list of felonies that may be authorized for.
Our Position: Second chances are an indispensable piece of successful reentry. This bill will increase access to second chances by making more people eligible for expungement of certain felonies from their record.
HB 315 - An act to create a cause of action for sexual harassment in state court; and for related purposes.
Description: Sexual harassment; create a state cause of action.
Our Position: Sexual harassment is a civil rights violation, and the culture of sexual harassment must be dismantled. This bill will stop gender based violence and harassment in the workplace, create meaningful accountability which should include civil rights remedies that shift the focus far punishing the offender to provide redress for the victim.
HB 350 - An act to amend section 47-7-38.1, Mississippi code of 1972, to authorize the department of corrections to award up to 10 days reduction of sentence for each 30 days of participation by an offender in a technical violation center; to further authorize the department to place an offender in the general population for the remainder of the term to be served at a technical violation center for up to 180 days if an offender fails to follow the rules of a center; to amend sections 47-7-27 and 47-7-37, Mississippi code of 1972, in conformity to the preceding section; to amend section 47-7-3.1, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide that the requirement of the department of corrections to develop a case plan for all parole eligible inmates shall only be applicable to those convicted after July 1, 2014; to remove certain time frames concerning the department in the development of such case plans; to provide that the department shall, by rules and regulations, establish a method determining an inmate's compliance with his or her case plan; to provide that the department shall notify the parole board if an inmate is failing to maintain compliance with his or her case plan; and for related purposes.
Description: DOC; authorize awarding of certain participation credits for offenders in technical violations centers.
Our Position: This legislation will create violation centers that will include substance abuse services shown to reduce recidivism, and employment preparation through educational programs, training, and behavioral programs.
HB 404 - An act to prohibit employers from inquiring either orally or in writing regarding an applicant's criminal history; to provide exceptions; and for related purposes.
Description: Employment application form; prohibit criminal background information from being asked on.
Our Position: This bill will prevent job discrimination by prohibiting criminal background history when filling out a job application, thereby providing a fair chance at hiring for formerly incarcerated individuals.
HB 416 - An act to amend section 47-7-3, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide that any offender who has committed a capital offense shall be eligible for parole after serving a certain period of his or her sentence and after completing his or her case plan; to bring forward section 47-7-3.2, Mississippi code of 1972, which pertains to the minimum time offenders convicted of violent crimes must serve before release, for purposes of possible amendment; and for related purposes
Description: Inmates convicted of capitol offenses; provide parole eligibility after certain requirements are met.
Our Position: Opening the door for individuals convicted of capital offenses to be released on parole will help provide more rehabilitation opportunities, versus incarcerating individuals indefinitely.
HB 448 - An act to prohibit any municipal court from requiring photo identification from any individual before the individual may enter such court; to amend section 21-23-7, Mississippi code of 1972, in conformity to the preceding section; and for related purposes.
Description: Municipal courts; prohibit requirement that individuals have a photo I.D. to enter into such courts.
Our Position: This bill prohibits municipal courts from requiring individuals to present photo I.D. in order to enter into court. Identification requirements are unnecessary to enter public buildings.
HB 558 - Act to amend section 47-7-3.2, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide that any eligible offender who has committed a nonviolent crime or violent crime on or after July 1, 1995, rather than July 1, 2014, shall not be released by the department of corrections until after he or she has served no less than twenty-five percent of his or her sentence for a nonviolent crime or fifty percent for a crime of violence; and for related purposes.
Description: Mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed by offenders; revise which offenders are eligible for.
Our Position: Extreme sentencing laws keep people in prisons for far too long. Lowering mandatory minimums is smart justice and helps to reduce mass incarceration in Mississippi.
HB 570 - An act to create a new code section that provides a court, when determining the least onerous conditions of release, shall impose financial conditions of release upon a defendant only when no other conditions will ensure a defendant's appearance in court; to provide that if such financial conditions are imposed for release, a court shall first consider an unsecured bond that is set at an amount that takes into consideration a defendant's ability to pay; to amend sections 21-23-8, 99-5-9 and 99-5-11, Mississippi code of 1972, in conformity to the preceding section; and for related purposes.
Description: Bail; provide imposition of by courts under certain circumstances whether no other condition ensure defendant’s appearance.
Our Position: This legislation will help return our pretrial system to the way it should be -- one in which money bail is a last resort to ensure court appearance. Pretrial liberty should be the rule, not the exception that is reserved for people with wealth.
HB 616 - An act to require that an inmate be given notification of certain terms upon his or her release if the inmate is eligible for parole, post-release supervision or probation; to require the notification to contain information regarding the time period of supervision, conditions for which an inmate may be returned to prison and conditions upon which an inmate's person, residence or vehicle may be searched by any law enforcement officer; to require the department of corrections to list the released inmate on the national crime index computer for certain purposes; to amend Sections 47-7-3, 47-7-33.1, 47-7-34, 47-7-35 and 47-7-47, Mississippi code of 1972, in conformity to the preceding provisions; and for related purposes.
Description: State inmates eligible for release; require notification of certain terms and conditions of release be given to.
Our Position: This amendment will require the Department of Corrections to notify the inmate if they are eligible for parole, post-release supervision, or probation. Receiving this information on the front-end will help to reduce the likelihood of recidivism.
HB 620 - An act to amend section 99-15-26, Mississippi code of 1972, to authorize successful completion of workforce training at a community college or workforce development center as a condition of the court withholding acceptance of a person's plea and sentence under the nonadjudication provisions of this section; to amend section 99-15-117, Mississippi code of 1972, to authorize successful completion of workforce training at a community college or workforce development center as a term of the pretrial intervention program under this section; to require the department of finance and administration to transfer from the budget of the Mississippi department of corrections to the Mississippi community college board the sum of $2,000.00 for each person who successfully completes workforce training at a community college or workforce development center as a condition of the court withholding acceptance of the person's plea and sentence under section 99-15-26 or as a term of the pretrial intervention program under section 99-15-117, which shall be disbursed to the community college at which the person received the workforce training or the community college affiliated with the workforce development center at which the person received the workforce training; and for related purposes.
Description: Nonadjudication and pretrial intervention; authorize completion of workforce training as a condition that the court may impose.
Our Position: This amendment will allow offenders to complete a workforce training at a community college or workforce development center as a form of rehabilitation instead of being penalized with a crime. It will be paid for through the Mississippi Department of Corrections. We support this bill because it will decrease the mass incarceration rate by providing rehabilitation opportunities.
HB 662 - An act to amend sections 93-11-65 and 93-11-71, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide that the duty to pay child support shall be suspended while the payor is incarcerated; and for related purposes.
Description: Child support; suspend requirement for payment while payor is incarcerated.
Our Position: This amendment will suspend requirement payments for inmates who are incarcerated. No one should be penalized for not being able to pay child support while incarcerated because they cannot seek employment.
HB 684 - An act to amend section 97-3-21, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide alternative sentencing options for juvenile offenders in certain murder convictions; and for related purposes.
Description: Juvenile offenders convicted of murder; revise sentencing options for.
Our Position: This bill creates alternative sentencing for juveniles who would otherwise be sentences to life in prison. Children who are sentenced as adults should be entitled to special protection and treatment.
HB 10 - To require school attendance officers to visit the home or place residence of a compulsory-school-age child within 72 hours of an unexcused absence for consultation with the parent or legal guardian of that child; and for related purposes.
Description: School attendance officers; require to visit home of certain children within 72 hours of unexcused absence.
Our Position: This legislation will employ school attendance officers determined by the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement to enforce the provision of the Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance. Truancy functions as punitive mechanism that disproportionately affects children of color and children with disabilities. This bill will result in parents being imprisoned and therefore families separated.
HB 11 - An act to amend section 37-13-91, Mississippi code of 1972, to require a school attendance officer to file a petition with the youth court after a child's third unlawful absence during a school year; to provide that the youth court may order such child to complete 16 hours of community service, which must be completed within 30 days of the child being adjudicated; to amend section 43-21-621, Mississippi code of 1972, in conformity thereto; and for related purposes
Description: Compulsory school attendance; require youth court petition after third unlawful absence and authorize community service for violations.
Our Position: School attendance officers serve a role in school that is distinct from law enforcement. This bill will lead to a violation of many students’ Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. School administrators should address a student absence from school. Student issues should be dealt with appropriate social service responses not criminalized.
HB 13 - An act to require recipients of benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) program to take the test of adult basic education (TABE); to provide that if the recipient scores below the 12th grade level in any category of the TABE, the recipient must enroll in a program of study for the TABE at a community college to become competent in those categories in which the recipient is deficient, and take the TABE again after completion of the program of study; and for related purposes.
Description: SNAP and TANF recipients; require those unemployed to take Test of Adult Basic Education.
Our Position: This act will require people to take a test in order to receive SNAP or TANF assistance that is provided by the government. This bill creates an unnecessary barrier to economic stability for already struggling public benefit recipient. The bill would require recipients participation in progress for which it provides no resources in order to receive basic life sustaining supplements makes no provisions for those who are disabled or with limited capacity.
HB 20 - An act to amend section 47-5-95, Mississippi code of 1972, to prohibit conjugal visits with offenders who are committed to the custody of the department of corrections; and for related purposes.
Description: Conjugal visits; prohibit for offenders committed to the custody of the Department of Corrections.
Our Position: Conjugal visits, as with any visitation, help prisoners maintain their humanity while incarcerated. Therefore, such visits help in the transition to contributing positively to society once they are released. No legislative act should deny that opportunity for true rehabilitation.
HB 21 - Include the killing of a utility worker in the definition of capital murder; and for related purposes.
Description: Utility worker; killing of shall be capital murder.
Our Position: This bill will classify the killing of a utility worker as capital murder. Not only is it unnecessary, but there is no evidence that utility workers are violently targeted.
HB 100 - An act to amend section 37-26-11, Mississippi code of 1972, to authorize expenditures from the children's advocacy centers fund in the office of attorney general for any licensed or certified nonprofit foster family/foster children program in the state; to amend section 99-19-73, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide an additional criminal assessment on drug and alcohol misdemeanors and felonies for the children's advocacy center fund to be used for such foster children programs; and for related purposes.
Description: Children’s Advocacy Centers Fund; provide an additional assessment on drug/alcohol violations for foster care programs.
Our Position: This legislative will provide an additional criminal assessment on drug and alcohol misdemeanors and felonies to be used for foster children programs. There is no nexus connection between drug and alcohol and the foster program. This bill seeks to further criminalize drug misuse instead to provide treatment.
HB 121 - To revise the crime of endangerment for knowingly exposing another person to infectious body fluids; and for related purposes.
Description: HIV crimes; increase penalties for intentional exposure to blood or seminal fluid.
Our Position: Having HIV is not a crime.
HB 221, HB 271 - An act to create new section 97-3-9, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide for the crime of indecent assault; to provide penalties for violation of such crime; to provide that this provision of law shall not be construed to prevent, limit or restrict prosecution and conviction of any person under any other provision of law; and for related purposes.
Description: Indecent assault; create crime of.
Our Position: Mississippi holds the third highest incarceration rate in the nation. Creating new crimes perpetuates the state’s addiction to prison.
HB 225 - An act to amend section 21-21-3, Mississippi code of 1972, to require the governing authorities of municipalities to provide police officers, who are on patrol, with body-worn cameras; to define the term "body-worn camera"; to amend section 19-25-13, Mississippi code of 1972, to require county boards of supervisors to include allocations for body-worn cameras in the annual budgets for sheriffs' offices; to amend section 19-25-21, Mississippi code of 1972, to require deputy sheriffs, who are on patrol, to wear body-worn cameras; to create a new section to provide certain penalties for police officers and sheriff deputies who fail to wear body-worn cameras while on patrol; and for related purposes.
Description: Body-worn cameras; require cities and counties to provide to police officers and deputy sheriffs.
Our Position: While the ACLU of MS believes that body-worn cameras can be a win-win for police and the communities they serve, they must be deployed alongside policies that include provisions for citizens’ privacy, transparency, and accountability. Without the proper policies in place, body-worn cameras can become a surveillance tool.
HB 581 - An act to amend section 37-11-23, Mississippi code of 1972, to revise the penalty for disturbance of a school session or meeting; and for related purposes.
Description: Mississippi Terroristic Threats Law; create.
Our Position: A penalty for disturbance of a school session or meeting already exists. Creating a new crime is unnecessary and creates a slippery slope likely to lead to costly litigation protecting a fundamental right to free speech.
HB 685 - An act to amend section 97-44-1, Mississippi code of 1972, to change the short title of the Mississippi street gang act to "the Mississippi Gang Act"; to amend section 97-44-3, Mississippi code of 1972, to define terms; to amend section 97-44-5, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide penalties for criminal gang activity; to amend section 97-44-7, Mississippi code of 1972, to clarify evidentiary standards; to create new section 97-44-101, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide a civil cause of action based on gang activity; to create new section 97-44-103, Mississippi code of 1972, to specify venue; to create new section 97-44-105, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide for service of process; to create new section 97-44-107, Mississippi code of 1972, to authorize injunctive relief; to create new sections 97-44-109 and 97-44-111, Mississippi code of 1972, to provide for forfeiture of real and personal property; to repeal sections 97-44-9, 97-44-11, 97-44-13, 97-44-15, 97-44-17 and 97-44-19, Mississippi code of 1972, which constituted various provisions in the street gang act that are eliminated or subsumed under this act; to create new section 97-35-53, Mississippi code of 1972, to prohibit threats against a law enforcement officer or judge; to provide that offenders who are convicted of conducting or participating in criminal gang activity shall not be eligible for parole or any early release program of the Mississippi department of corrections; to amend sections 97-3-2, 47-5-138.1, 47-5-139 and 47-5-142, Mississippi code of 1972, to conform; to amend sections 13-7-5 and 13-7-7, Mississippi code of 1972, to revise the provisions of law which regulate grand jury proceedings; and for related purposes.
Description: The Mississippi Street Gang Act; make various revisions.
Our Position: This legislation will unnecessarily amend the current Mississippi Street Gang Act. It will make membership in a gang a felony with no eligibility for parole, regardless if said member had not committed any crimes that may be attributed to that particular gang. We oppose legislation that can arbitrarily define what constitutes a “gang”, under the guise of creating a safe society. In addition, this legislation will disproportionately impact communities of color by making them more susceptible to being unfairly and unnecessarily harassed and targeted by law enforcement. It will further result in increases prison population.
HB 722 - An Act To Provide A Schedule Of Bail For Bailable Criminal Offenses; To Amend Sections 99-5-5, 99-5-13 And 99-5-23, Mississippi Code Of 1972, In Conformity To The Preceding Section; And For Related Purposes.
Description: Bail schedule for courts; create.
Our Position: Bail schedules take away an individual's assessment of ability to pay. This bill would perpetuatee wealth-based incarceration.
HB 453 - An act to prohibit law enforcement officers from using body-worn cameras to recreate past encounters; to prohibit video and audio footage recorded by body-worn cameras other than from actual real-time encounters from being used in criminal proceedings; to require law enforcement agencies utilizing body-worn cameras to adopt policies governing their usage; and for related purposes.
Description: Body-warn cameras; prohibit law enforcement from recreating past activities with.
Our Position: This act will help to implement bare minimum guidelines for usage of body-worn cameras by law enforcement. However, it does not go far enough to ensure protection of citizen’s privacy nor provide comprehensive provisions towards transparency and accountability.