Mississippi House approves bill (HB1352) to ease some criminal penalties

House Bill 1352 seeks to divert mentally ill people away from criminal court, would stop suspending driver’s licenses in some cases and allow people to wipe more crimes from their record. Republican Rep. Jason White of West, the bill’s sponsor, acknowledged there were other things he would have liked to have seen in the bill. But he said he thought the version now moving forward was politically feasible in an election year in a traditionally tough-on-crime state.

The proposal also would bar the state from revoking someone’s driver’s license just because they didn’t pay fines. The state would also no longer suspend someone’s driver’s license for a drug charge not related to operating a vehicle.

“This is some good, common-sense criminal justice reform that will allow us to build on it,” White said, “We can expand on it in sessions in the future.”

The measure moves on for more debate in the Senate, where a bill that would have made much more sweeping changes to Mississippi’s punishment and rehabilitation of criminals died earlier this week without a committee vote.