View Full Version : Article: Corrections panel OKs house-arrest bill

01-21-2005, 08:12 AM

January 21, 2005

By Laura Hipp (

Lawmakers are closer to reinstating a supervised house arrest program that was overlooked last session.

The House Corrections Committee on Thursday approved a bill that authorizes the state Department of Corrections to charge inmates $75 a month to participate in the house-arrest program.

The House will consider House Bill 637 in the next few days, said Corrections Chairman Bennett Malone, D-Carthage.

He said the monthly fee that inmates pay went from $50 to $75 in the bill to ease the department's $13 million deficit.

Mississippi has lost $490,000 since lawmakers allowed the program to lapse in 2004.

A computer glitch listed the bill as passed in the Senate when that chamber had not voted, Senate Corrections Chairman Bunky Huggins, R-Greenwood, said.

Another bill allowed the 1,400 inmates on house arrest to continue in the program, but the state could not charge the fee.

"It's the cheapest way for us to house prisoners, and there's a lot of people who don't need to go to prison," Huggins said.

Inmates will pay for the six months the program has stalled, Malone said.

Huggins said the higher fee may not survive his committee should it be approved by the House and sent to the Senate.

"What you're doing is penalizing the family," he said. Relatives often pay for an inmate to be on house arrest. "I know the Department of Corrections needs money, but there are other places we can go to get it."

The state pays a daily average of $8.51 per inmate to manage the program, Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said.

The average daily cost for housing an inmate in a state prison is $44.30, according to a report released Thursday by the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review. That includes the cost of paying debt service on state prisons. The per inmate daily cost in private prisons is $32.84, Epps said.

The annual PEER report is required by state law to establish a daily cost for housing criminals.

PEER recommended starting negotiations with the six private prisons at a lower amount $22.31 per day to save on contracts. By law, private prisons must operate at a cost that is 10 percent lower than operational expenses at a state facility.

Epps said his department already uses the PEER committee's suggestions, such as deducting debt service, medical care and education from the bottom line.

Louise Chickering, spokeswoman for the Corrections Corporation of America in Nashville, said the company has not seen the report and could not comment. CCA owns and operates a prison in Tutwiler and manages two state-owned prisons in Woodville and Greenwood.

01-21-2005, 08:13 AM
Here is an interesting side note that accompanied the above article.

By the numbers

About 1,400 Mississippi inmates are enrolled in the supervised house-arrest program.

Only low-risk, nonviolent first-time offenders are eligible. Those convicted of selling or manufacturing drugs cannot participate.

Inmates remain at their residence at all times except to go to work, attend school and perform community service. They also are responsible for the cost of electronic monitoring devices.

More than 7,000 inmates have completed the program, which has a 64 percent success rate, Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said.