Alternatives to Incarceration
Mississippi law provides many alternatives to incarceration based on the nature of the charge and the defendant’s history.
Pre-trial Diversion is administered by the District Attorney’s Office and approved by the Circuit Court. While the various District Attorney/Circuit Court districts have their own rules for entry into the Pre-trial Diversion program, the defendant must be a first offender meaning no prior felony convictions. The charge must be nonviolent. Drug possession is an acceptable charge. Charges involving drug sales or possession of controlled substance with intent to distribute do not qualify.
The District Attorney conducts a background investigation and consults law enforcement before accepting the defendant. Pre-trial Diversion rules and supervision fees are similar to those for probation. Under Pre-trial Diversion the defendant does not plead guilty and is not convicted. If the defendant does not complete Pre-trial Diversion, the District Attorney may reinstate the case to the active court docket and set it for trial. When the defendant completes Pre-trial Diversion, the case is closed and the defendant is eligible to petition the court to expunge the felony arrest.
Non-adjudicated probation is also called Deferred Adjudication. With non-adjudicated probation, the defendant enters a guilty plea. The court accepts the plea but withholds adjudication of guilt. Upon successful completion of all terms and conditions of probation, including payment of fines, court costs and restitution, the defendant is discharged from probation.
If a defendant who has previously been placed on non-adjudicated probation is charged with a violation, the probation officer files an affidavit, arrest warrant and petition to revoke probation and the defendant returns to court for a revocation hearing. If the court finds that the defendant violated probation, then the court is authorized to adjudicate the defendant guilty (convict the defendant of a felony) and impose the sentence. If the violation is minor, then the court is authorized to impose appropriate remedial action such as drug treatment and retain jurisdiction over the defendant.
When the defendant successfully completes all terms and conditions of non-adjudicated probation, he is discharged from probation. The defendant may petition the court to expunge the felony arrest.
Suspended Sentence or Split Sentence
After a felony conviction, the court may suspend imposition of sentence and place the defendant on probation. The court retains jurisdiction and may extend or terminate the time of probation depending on the defendant’s behavior while on supervision. The maximum term of supervised probation is five years.
The law provides standard terms and conditions of probation. The court may impose additional terms and conditions as appropriate. If a defendant fails to comply with those terms and conditions of probation listed in his sentencing order, the probation officer files an affidavit, arrest warrant and petition to revoke probation and sets the matter for hearing. The court is authorized to impose the original suspended sentence along with any other remedial measures deemed appropriate.
When the defendant satisfactorily completes all terms and conditions of probation, depending on the nature of the charge and other factors, the defendant may be eligible to petition the court for expungement of his felony arrest and conviction.
Drug Courts are designed to supervise and rehabilitate people with substance abuse, addiction, or drug dependancy issues. Drug Court participants report frequently, usually weekly, and are required to submit frequent drug tests. Defendants also participate in treatment, both inpatient and outpatient. Drug Court is probation with court monitored drug treatment.
Some Drug Courts accept defendants with prior felony convictions. Certain convictions such as drug sales, violent crimes, sex crimes, or crimes involving a deadly weapon are excluded from Drug Court. Other nonviolent felony convictions may be acceptable. Violations of Drug Court supervision will result in a probation revocation hearing before the sentencing judge. Successful completion of Drug Court will result in discharge from probation. The defendant may be eligible for expungement of the felony arrest and conviction.
Regimented Inmate Discipline Program - Discontinued
The goal of the Regimented Inmate Discipline program (RID) was to instill correct behavior in youthful offenders. Military style discipline was the framework for several remedial programs. A defendant sentenced to RID would attend and successfully complete GED or adult education classes, anger management, substance abuse counseling, and pre-release orientation. An evidence based analysis of RID disclosed a higher rate of recidivism (repeat offenders) than the adult general population. The legislature abolished RID and directed MDOC to implement evidence based programs.
Recidivism Reduction Program
The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) enacted the Recidivism Reduction Program (RRP) in response to the Mississippi legislature’s mandate to implement evidence based programs. RRP is available in custody. RRP is also available as an alternative to incarceration through community based RRP. This alternative to incarceration is available in Harrison County (Gulfport); Forrest County (Hattiesburg), and Lee County (Tupelo). The core RRP program is Thinking for a Change, which integrates the concepts of Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
A defendant who owes substantial fines and restitution may be sentenced to a restitution center as a term and condition of probation. Education and personal responsibility are emphasized. The defendant earns points by maintaining good behavior and must maintain employment. The Restitution Center helps the defendant find employment and monitors the Defendant’s attendance and performance. GED classes are available.
Upon completion of the Restitution Center, the defendant is placed on probation in compliance with the court’s order. The defendant’s wages are paid into his account for reimbursement of fines and costs.
Post Release Supervision
Post Release Supervision (PRS) means supervision after incarceration. After release from custody, the defendant reports to the Mississippi Department of Corrections to be supervised.
A defendant with a prior felony conviction is not eligible for probation. Accordingly, PRS is available only after release from incarceration. The law does not specify any particular time of incarceration before the defendant is eligible for Post Release Supervision. Sentencing remains within the discretion of the court. The maximum supervised post release term is five years, with the remainder being unsupervised. The terms and conditions of Post Release Supervision are the same as for probation. Violations of PRS are handled like probation violations.
House Arrest - Intensive Supervision Program
House Arrest, also called Intensive Supervision Program (ISP), is an alternative to incarceration available in limited circumstances. The defendant is screened and approved. The defendant wears an electronic monitor to assure compliance with curfew requirements. Any violation of curfew alerts the ISP officer. Electronic monitoring permits a defendant to go to work, attend church, obtain medical care and substance abuse treatment.
To be eligible for house arrest, the conviction must be nonviolent and the defendant must be considered low risk. Convictions for drug sales, violent offenses, sex crimes, or crimes involving use of a deadly weapon are not eligible for ISP. A defendant who has already served a felony prison sentence is not eligible for House Arrest.
A defendant on house arrest is an inmate under supervision of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Accordingly, any violation of house arrest results in MDOC issuing a Rule Violation Report (RVR). The defendant is not brought back before the court. MDOC will conduct a hearing on the RVR and has the authority to reclassify the defendant from ISP to the prison system to finish serving his sentence.
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