Mississippi Inmates Released Early to Save State Money

JACKSON (AP) — Former crematorium owner Mark Seepe is out of prison after serving less than two years of a ten-year sentence for personal use of advance funeral payments.

Seeps, put on house arrest in January 2011, is among inmates released because the Mississippi Department of Corrections is using early release, house arrest and probation to save at least $5 million on inmate housing, The Clarion-Ledger (on.thec-l.com/PaOyMU) reports.

The Legislative Budget Committee praised MDOC for not seeking a budget increase this fiscal year.

But House Corrections Chairman George Flaggs said MDOC will end the year with a $30 million deficit which the Legislature will have to make up in 2013.

A growing prison population is the reason for the deficit, said department spokeswoman Tara Booth.

Dorothy Simmons, 86, one of Seepe's victims, said she is shocked he is out of prison.

"Did they say anything about when he will pay our money back?" Simmons asked.

MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps said the department has 25,000 beds with 22,000 inmates in custody and another 38,500 under community corrections supervision.

Mississippi is behind only Louisiana in the number of people incarcerated per 100,000 residents.

The number of inmates on house arrest has gone up nearly 40 percent since 2004. And the number of people on probation and parole also has grown by about 30 percent, further cutting back the need for prison beds.

Only nonviolent, first-time offenders are placed on house arrest, according to Epps.

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