Inmate population cannot be sustained, probation chief warns
By John Howell
The United States with five percent of the world’s people has 25 percent of the world’s prison population.
“We can’t tote the note,” Danny McKittrick said Tuesday.
McKittrick is Chief U. S. Probation Officer for the Northern District of Mississippi. The Batesville native spoke to the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club.
McKittrick cited numbers: 2.5 million in state and federal prisons across the U. S., another 750,000 people in county jails waiting to go to prison.
“If you figure generally just on the average that we spend $30,000 a year on every one of those prisoners and nationally we average about $10,000 a year per student for education in K through 12; we’re making a $10,000 investment in our kids and we’re investing $30,000 a pop on our … prisoners,” the federal probation officer said.
“The thing that I think the country is coming to grips with — the judges, the politicians and the people who are trying to figure out how to manage our prison population going forward — what they’re looking at is who do we have in prison that we shouldn’t have in prison, who’s in prison that we should have done something else with,” McKittrick said.
McKittrick’s career includes 36 years as a state and federal probation officer. He is former vice president of the Mississippi Association of Professionals in Corrections and has served as an adjunct faculty member of the Federal Judicial Center and on the Law Enforcement Coordinating Advisory Committee for the Northern District of Mississippi.
“I believe that over the course of the next five to 10 years, you’ll see a huge swing in criminal justice where you’ll see some common sense being brought back into courts, the re-entry courts, the drug courts where we would intervene before a person has a felony conviction and ruins their lives,” he said.
McKittrick cited the prohibitions for a convicted felon in Mississippi: hunting license, voting, Section 8 housing, rental assistance among them.
“You cannot cut hair in the State of Mississippi because you can’t be licensed by the state if you’ve got a felony conviction,” McKittrick said.
“So what do you do?” he asked, rhetorically. “It’s a ready-made population, you go back and do the same thing over and over again.
“We have set it up where they cannot succeed,” he said.