Research Report Assessing the Impact of Mississippi’s Front-End Drug Policy Changes
Ammar Khalid, Will Engelhardt, Ashlin Oglesby-Neal, Arielle Jackson, Olivia Stuart, Andreea Matei
Display Date
Download Report
(830.29 KB)


Mississippi enacted comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation (H.B. 585) in 2014 as part of its Justice Reinvestment Initiative process. The state implemented front-end drug policy and practice reforms to divert people from the criminal legal system when possible and to connect people to treatment when appropriate. The Urban Institute assessed the implementation of these drug-related reforms through analysis of administrative data and interviews with stakeholders in Mississippi.

Why this matters

Drug-related offenses remain a major driver of arrests, incarceration, and community supervision not just in Mississippi but across the United States. Lessons learned from Mississippi’s efforts could inform other states’ approaches to these offenses.

Key takeaways

Our main takeaways include the following:

  • Overall, the number of annual felony drug sentences to incarceration and community supervision in Mississippi trended downward from 2010 to 2021.
  • There was a slight shift away from incarceration-based sentences postreform, though these sentences still accounted for just over half of all drug-related sentences.
  • The share of the prison population that had a primary drug offense in Mississippi declined from 2014 to 2019 from around 25 percent to 20 percent.
  • The overall decline in the prison population serving drug-related sentences during this period was driven by a decline in the number of Black people serving primary drug terms under Mississippi Department of Corrections jurisdiction even as the number of white people serving primary drug terms stayed relatively stable.
  • The revocation rates for people on postrelease probation decreased marginally in the years immediately after H.B. 585.
Research Areas Crime, justice, and safety
Tags Crime and justice analytics
Policy Centers Justice Policy Center
Research Methods Data analysis Quantitative data analysis Qualitative data analysis