Mississippi legislators are contemplating bringing back an anti-gang bill from last year, but most people don’t realize that Mississippi already has an anti-gang law.
The Mississippi Street Gang Act was passed in 1997 and allows the state Attorney General, district attorneys or a county attorney to bring a civil case against any gang (defined as three or more persons with an established hierarchy that engages in felonious criminal activity).
The existing law also proscribes that anyone convicted a felony committed for, directed by or in association with a criminal street gang would be imprisoned for no less than one year and no more than one half of the maximum imprisonment term for that offense.
Those selling or buying goods or performing services for a gang could face the same punishment as above and an a possible fine of up to $10,000.
Both the House and Senate versions of the gang bill would’ve expanded the definition of a gang to include:
- A common name, slogan, symbol, tattoo or other physical marking.
- Style or color of clothing or hairstyle
- Hand sign or gesture
Some critics have said this would lead to profiling. State Rep. Bill Kinkade (R-Byhalia) told WLBT that a new bill would need to have the language cleaned up to narrow the definition of a gang.
Both bills would’ve increased the prison term in the original law to five years or less and a fine of no more than $15,000 and no less than $10,000. Both would’ve authorized injunctive relief for people seeking the eviction of gang members on their property and provided for the forfeiture of gang member property.
Senate Bill 2728, authored by state Sen. Brice Wiggins (R-Pascagoula) and it died in committee. The Senate bill differed from its House counterpart in that it would’ve prohibited convicted gang members from parole or any early release program.
State Rep. Fred Shanks (R-Brandon) authored the House version, HB 685 and it also died in committee.