According to a new analysis of FBI crime data by Empower Mississippi, the Magnolia State’s homicide rate is significantly higher than the national average, but the overall violent crime rate is lower than the national average.
From 2017 to 2020, Mississippi’s homicide rate experienced a 66 percent uptick. The spike was largely driven by the doubling of Jackson’s homicide rate over those three years. In 2020, the capital city accounted for 52 percent of homicides in the state, despite only accounting for six percent of the state’s total population.
Mississippi’s broader violent crime rate, which includes rape, aggravated assault, and robbery, was 27 percent lower than the national rate in 2020. It was also significantly lower than all eight other states in the region.
“The ultimate purpose and a core function of government is public safety. Let’s figure out how to not just make people feel better, but to actually be safer.” Empower Mississippi Senior Advisor Forest Thigpen said on The Gallo Show.
Despite the overall violent crime rate in Mississippi being lower than the national average, the state has the highest incarceration rate in the U.S., meaning the majority of the prison population consists of nonviolent offenders.
While Thigpen is not arguing that nonviolent offenders should avoid facing punishments for their crimes, he does not see long-term imprisonment as a solution, especially when jails across the state are experiencing overcrowding, which also costs taxpayers lots of money.
“What we need to be sure of is that we’re not locking people up who don’t need to be in prison. We’re not saying there shouldn’t be consequences for crimes, but we’re saying that there are some methods of punishment that are more effective and less expensive for taxpayers,” Thigpen said. “It’s important to understand that there are ways to reduce crime and to reduce our prison population. It has been done in other states. It’s not just a theory.”
Thigpen’s recommended methods of reducing violent crime includes:
- Properly funding law enforcement and ensure that the money is used to attract, pay well, and properly train officers.
- Focusing limited law-enforcement resources on the most serious offenses, and address mental health and addiction issues at the community level.
- Preparing people with job skills, life skills, and mental or addiction treatment while they are in prison. Most people who commit crimes after leaving prison do so within the first year, often because they go back to the same circumstances they left, without the knowledge or skills or mental health to lead a different life.
To read the full report from Empower Mississippi, click here.