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Natchez, Mississippi

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Updated the 2nd Wednesday of each month


The Rinaldi Report:

There's quite a difference in counting the votes between the systems in Louisiana and Mississippi

Walter Williams commentary:
Voter ID laws have been challenged because liberal Democrats deem them racist. I guess that's because they see blacks as being incapable of acquiring some kind of government-issued identification.

The Miss-Lou’s breaking news:
Christmas parades are scheduled. Tri-parish jobs picture looks worse. Sex predator asks for permission to travel. Natchez Judge Jim Blough and the mayor and aldermen clash over collection agency.

The Advice Goddess:
Getting the chills the moment you set eyes on a person may be a sign that you have love at first sight -- or an incipient case of malaria. In time, you'll find out whether you have lasting love or lasting liver damage, seizures, and death.

Terry Savage on money:
Social Security benefits can be confusing enough, and when you get into the rules and regulations concerning ex-spouses, they're potentially even more so.

Rallie McAllister on health:
Ginger does more than just add a snap of flavor to foods and beverages. For centuries, the root of the plant has been used as a remedy for a variety of illnesses ranging from the common cold to cancer.

Thomas Sowell thinking clearly:  
Many people may share Senator Bernie Sanders' complaint that he was tired of hearing about Hillary Clinton's e-mails. But the controversy is about issues far bigger than e-mails.

Best buys classifieds:

Our classifieds work well and clients find them an effective way to market goods and services. Priced as low as $11.  

Tourists and pilgrims welcome:
Cool weather is here to stay.  Now's the time to visit Natchez and Vidalia to sample Southern history and hospitality.


Win cash or prizes!

Win $100 in groceries from The Markets. Enter online with us or visit Dora's Flower Shop in Natchez to enter in person.



More good writing:
Read more news and commentary on www.natchezsunxpress.com. Find our print edition of Miss-Lou Magazine on www.missloumagazine.com.



Guest Commentary:

Declining Prison Population
by Charlie Mitchell

    The motivations are different, but the result is the same.

    President Obama is happy about a decrease of 6,000 people in federal prisons nationwide. The rationale is that these people are nonviolent drug offenders from the 1980s and 1990s whose sentences were unduly harsh in the first place.

Mississippi’s inmate population has dropped by 3,000 people over the past several months 
— by far the fastest decline of any state. The rationale, though, is that prisons cost too much money.

    It is a remarkable and largely unheralded change. Long the leader in incarceration — or neck and neck with Louisiana — the number of people in state custody has fallen from 21,743 in January 2014 to 18,939 last week.

    What’s going on?

    Assorted Pew-recommended, Texas-tested changes in approaches to locking people up were adopted, albeit quietly, by the Mississippi Legislature in 2014. Several other states did much the same. The legislation was handled with no fanfare. (Just about the worst thing to say about a legislator seeking re-election is that he or she is soft on crime. No incumbent wanted to wear that label.)

    The process was started by Gov. Phil Bryant when he appointed a task force on prison reform early in his first term. That commission (which preceded the more recent commission appointed in response to top-level corruption) issued a rather straightforward report. The Legislature, for the most part, followed the recommendations.

    There are some twists and turns, but the essence centers on (1) dividing crimes into violent and nonviolent categories, (2) more community-based corrections and (3) a pledge for more post-release monitoring and assistance. All track the findings of scholarly studies conducted over many years in the Public Safety Performance Project of the private Pew Charitable Trusts.

    Bryant was adamant about violent offenders. No break for them. But for those who really haven’t hurt anyone but themselves, there are lesser maximum sentences and earlier opportunities for release.

    The community-based aspect includes wider use of drug courts, which require that people who admit their crimes and admit their addictions undergo monitored treatment with the looming threat of being locked up. It also involves alternatives such as house arrest.

    The post-release changes are related to the fact that a third of the people in prison have been there before — the so-called revolving door syndrome. Finding ways to help former inmates stay out of trouble is a lot cheaper than locking them up again.

It’s not nice to gloat — but Mississippi doesn’t get many chances to be No. 1. The reduction in the inmate tally here is 13 percent. The federal reduction is a mere 3 percent.

Amazing numbers have some with the 35-year-long surge in locking people up here and nationwide. The federal Bureau of Prisons was home to 25,000 people in 1980. Even after the first round of federal releases, the number will be at 200,000, still a 700 percent increase.

    Mississippi tracked the national trend, started by President Nixon’s 1971 declaration of a War on Drugs and amplified by former Gov. Kirk Fordice’s 1995 Truth In Sentencing legislation.

    Official figures today say it costs taxpayers $17,177 per year to house and feed a Mississippi inmate. That puts the price tag of a 20-year sentence, assuming no inflation, at a third of a million dollars.

    For this fiscal year, Senate Bill 2855 allocated $333 million for prison operations, which is a third of a billion dollars. And unlike so many other spending categories — Medicaid, roads, education — there is no federal match or supplement. Hard time costs hard dollars.

    New Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher (who got the job when his predecessor was arrested for and later pleaded guilty to federal felonies) is square-jawed and straightforward. He’s made some friends and some foes in his first year in the role, but no one doubts his determination.

    For one thing, he wants higher standards and better pay for corrections officers.

    For another, while corrections is costly to taxpayers, it’s lucrative to the private prisons in the state that are guaranteed a return on their investment.

    What about the other thing? The effect of all these criminals being back on the streets? That’s interesting, too.

    Texas, the first state to adopt the Pew reforms, has actually recorded a decrease in violent crime by making smarter use of its cell space.

    Mississippi is middle-of-the-pack among the 50 states when it comes to violent crime rates. Being “smarter on crime” as opposed to “soft on crime” might lead to better scores on that, too.

Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at cmitchell43@yahoo.com.


Peter Rinaldi
Walter Williams
Top Local News
Amy Alkon
Dollars and Sense
Your Health
Thomas Sowell

Visiting Natchez  
Win Cash or Prizes
Local Weather
Mississippi News
Louisiana News
U.S.-World News



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