There are currently about 19,000 people in prison in Mississippi. In fact, Mississippi has the third largest prison population in the entire U.S. To address this, a bill has recently been introduced that aims to reduce the state’s prison population.

The proposal involves the state’s habitual criminal laws. Under current law, a person can face an “extreme sentence” if they have been convicted of a crime — even non-violent crimes — three times. Currently, there are 78 people serving a life sentence in Mississippi, simply because they committed drug crimes. Of those sentenced to 20 years imprisonment or more under Mississippi’s habitual criminal laws, 75% are black males.

The proposal making its way through the state’s legislature would give certain habitual offenders the possibility of parole. It currently has passed through the House unanimously.

However, another bill has been introduced that a person convicted of a gang crime would be considered a violent criminal even if the crime at issue was not a violent crime. The idea behind the bill is to focus on gang leaders and its proponents claim it aligns with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s focus on mob activity.

Ultimately, these bills are just that — bills — and current law still stands with regards to Mississippi’s habitual criminal laws and gang laws. Those who are facing criminal charges for the third time or who are being accused of committing a gang crime will want to seek the legal assistance they need to understand how to build an effective defense strategy. Criminal defense attorneys in Mississippi understand how serious these types of charges are and may be a useful resource.