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Hinds County forces unite against bill to create unelected judicial district, expanded police force

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Hinds County forces unite against bill to create unelected judicial district, expanded police force

Jackson and Hinds County community members, elected officials, pastors and advocacy groups hope to stop legislation that would expand the boundaries of the Capitol Police and create a court system within the force’s district.

Opponents of House Bill 1020 say it is an unprecedented attempt to strip power away from the city of Jackson, which has one of the largest Black populations in Mississippi. They say the bill is racist and it implies that Black leadership is incapable of governance.

“We get to put all the action in someone else’s hands and pay the taxes to the king,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said during a Tuesday press conference on the Capitol steps.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, has passed through the Ways and Means Committee and is up for consideration by the full House.

Speakers at the news conference said they are against the existence and expansion of the Capitol Police, which was involved in several shootings last year that led to injuries or deaths, including the of 25-year-old Jaylen Lewis, who died after a traffic stop by a Capitol Police officer.

The current boundaries of the Capitol Complex Improvement District where the Capitol Police operates include downtown, Jackson University, the , Fondren and Belhaven. HB 1020 would push the district north.

The district started out as a way to provide funding for infrastructure in the Capitol area. During the pandemic, the used federal relief funds to create a patrol fleet for the Capitol Police and have four appointed judges help address case backlogs within the Hinds County Circuit Court, said Attorney Paloma Wu from the Mississippi Center for Justice.

She said this set the stage for HB 1020. The bill proposes creating a court system for the district with judges appointed by the chief justice and prosecutors appointed by the state . The chief of the Capitol Police District would also be appointed by the Department of Public Safety commissioner.

“It impacts you whether you live within the red line or the blue line,” Wu said about how the district court system would cover not just people living in the district, but around Hinds County.

Wu said the power of over 200,000 Hinds County residents would be placed in the hands of one person – Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Randolph. He did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Opponents also said the bill will empower a slate of all white and unelected officials for Hinds County.

The entire Hinds County Democratic delegation and Mississippi Senate Democratic Caucus are against the bill, according to statements from the groups.

The county’s circuit, chancery, county and justice court judges released a statement Monday evening calling the bill unconstitutional and one that would disenfranchise the county’s voters and power from elected judges.

“House Bill 1020 removes authority of the Circuit, Chancery, County and Justice Court judges from hearing and presiding over cases within the proposed Capital Improvement District and takes the constitutional power of elected judges and gives it to Judges appointed by the Supreme Court,.” according to the statement.

On Tuesday on the steps of the Hinds county Courthouse, the judges flanked Senior Circuit Judge Winston Kidd. He said the residents of every judicial district elect their judges, but HB 1020 would make Hinds County the exception.

Kidd said if the Legislature wants to add more judges, it should add ones that are elected.

HB 1020 also proposes sending 18.75% of sales tax that would otherwise go to Jackson to a Capitol Complex Improvement District project fund.

At the Capitol news conference, several speakers said what could happen with the legislation is similar to what happened in the 1800’s when lawmakers sought to disenfranchise Black residents.

Rep. Edward Blackmon Jr., D-Canton, evoked the names of Fannie Lou Hamer and Medgar Evers as people who fought for the right of Black people to vote.

“We are united in our effort and our voice to stop this atrocity because if you don’t do it now, you’ll be marching tomorrow,” he said. “You’ll be marching for what we’ve won, what our forefathers and grandmothers and granddaddies fought for for so many years and gave up their blood and tears. You’ll be letting down their effort.”

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Hinds County electronic system knocked offline, blocking jail, courts and DA communication

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Hinds County electronic system knocked offline, blocking jail, courts and DA communication

An investigation is underway into a potential compromise of a shared electronic system among the Sheriff’s Department, courts and prosecutors that may have prevented individuals from making bail and returning to their families and jobs.

Sheriff Tyree Jones said two systems connected to the court and the district attorney’s office went down between Jan. 1 and Wednesday evening. Problems were discovered after a power outage when information technology staff noticed the server and system didn’t reboot like they usually do, he said.

“This is something that was totally unpreventable,” Jones said. “There were no signs that this was going to happen. It caught us all by surprise.”

On Friday, Jones said he wasn’t able to share much due to the ongoing investigation. He did not confirm whether the investigation was being conducted by the sheriff’s office. When asked whether hacking may have been involved, he said a cause is still being determined.

Jones said there was never a point when public safety was at risk or people were erroneously released from the jail. He said the system mostly impacted communication between offices and processes that were slowed down.

The sheriff’s office is back on track and catching up from last week, he said.

Charity Bruce, deputy director of consumer protection and public benefits at the Mississippi Center for Justice, said she spoke with a community member who said they tried to pay bail for a family member at the Hinds County jail but couldn’t because the system was down. They also weren’t able to add money to the detainee’s account, she said.

When Bruce called the sheriff’s office and the jail, she asked if there was a way for people to post bond without the electronic system.

Jones doesn’t dispute that detainees weren’t able to make bail and leave the jail while the system was down, but he knows that booking and the ability to electronically share case information, including whether a judge approved bail, were affected.

Generally, when a bail bondsman comes to pay bond for a detainee, jail staff is responsible for confirming the person was granted bond and there is paperwork documenting that, he said.

With the recent system failure, jail staff had to find another way to get that information, such as by calling the courthouse and having someone there locate a detainee’s case file, Jones said.

Harya Tarekegn, director of advocacy and policy at the , said the situation raises due process concerns.

Bail is an amount of money set by a judge that a person must pay to get out of jail until their next court appearance. The goal of bail is to make sure defendants show up in court.

Whether bail is awarded and how much depends on several factors, including the alleged , whether a person is dangerous, community safety and their risk of fleeing.

Generally, the longer someone is in jail, the worse their outcome is, Tarekegn said. Being in jail often means a person misses work and income, and they aren’t able to see family, she said.

As a result of the Hinds County system going down, she said the Mississippi Center for Justice doesn’t know how many people missed the holidays with family or lost employment because they weren’t able to pay bail and be released.

“All of the implications of not being home are exacerbated by this,” Tarekegn said about detention.

Jones said the past week and a half showed that the sheriff’s office and courts can do some things manually.

Any needed preventative measures would be made by IT, he said. Even though the situation was unexpected, Jones said the sheriff’s office will be prepared if the system were to go offline again.

“This has been a learning experience,” Jones said.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Appeals court halts federal oversight of Hinds County jail

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Appeals court halts federal oversight of Hinds County jail

Days before a federal receiver was set to take control of the Detention Facility, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay halting that work.

On Dec. 28, a three-member panel of the 5th Circuit Court granted a stay for the order appointing a receiver and the new injunction, which stays a court order put in place by U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves in April to set standards for Hinds County to fix the jail in Raymond.

In November, Reeves appointed former Baltimore jail warden and criminal justice adjunct professor Wendell France Sr. as jail receiver. France started work then and was set to take full operational control of the jail Jan. 1, but did not due to the 5th Circuit Court order.

A three-person monitoring team that has been documenting conditions and progress at the jail was also ordered to stop work, according to a Dec. 29 order by Reeves. The monitoring team issued its last report Dec. 12, highlighting ongoing issues such as the lack of direct supervision of jail housing units and facility maintenance.

The 5th Circuit Court’s decision comes less than a year after attorneys from the county and U.S. Department of Justice were in Reeves’ courtroom to argue for and against federal receivership.

Hinds County Board of Supervisors President Credell Calhoun said Tuesday he is pleased with the stay. The current board has spent millions to try to bring the jail into compliance, he said, and the county is building a new jail in Jackson that addresses issues with the current jail.

“Everything went back to before the (receivership) order,” he said. “I was disappointed they didn’t wait and continue to let us do what we were doing. We’re doing everything we know and can afford.”

The county has maintained opposition to federal control of the jail through court documents and during the three weeks of hearings before Reeves.

The injunction and receiver orders will be paused while the district court addresses motions for reconsideration and a motion for clarification filed by the government over Section K, a section not included in the new injunction order that said juveniles charged as adults in Hinds County must be held at the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center rather than the jail for adults.

Questions about where to hold juveniles charged as adults came into question after a separate consent decree overseeing the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center was terminated Oct. 13.

Jan. 31 is the deadline for the district court to finish additional proceedings and modifications to the injunction for the jail relating to how juvenile offenders charged as adults are housed.

Calhoun said a full appeal could take time, and within 18 to 24 months, the county expects to finish the first phase of 200 jail beds and amenities. Future phases would bring the jail to 750 beds, he said.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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US Marshals join local law enforcement to fight crime in Jackson

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US Marshals join local law enforcement to fight crime in Jackson

Jackson and law enforcement agencies are partnering with the U.S. Marshals Service to address violent in the city.

Marshals Service Director Ronald Davis visited Jackson on Thursday and, during a forum, asked the mayor, local law enforcement and community members what kind of resources and support they need.

“We will partner with our local partners and be very strategic,” he said. “I think a lot of this, for me. is that I never took it that we’re here to solve problems, but better understand the challenges you’re facing because you’re facing it, and I think many communities across the country are facing the same.”

Jackson reached a record-high 153 homicides in 2021, and had 130 homicides in 2022.

Davis, a former chief and head of the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, wants to take a holistic approach to addressing crime that is driven by community input and built on trust.

He said he doesn’t want to bring in Marshals Service deputies as a new police force that patrols the streets and acts like it knows the community’s needs.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said multiple parts of the criminal justice system are overworked, which is seen in policing and investigations and a backlog in the crime lab to process evidence for cases.

Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens (right) addresses a question as Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba (left) and Jackson Police Chief James Davis, during a Violent Crime Prevention Summit held at the Two Mississippi Museums, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Jackson.

Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens said he would like to see more collaboration to help with prosecution and investigations.

“We’re having far too many individuals we have in custody in our jail that we’re not able to move their cases fast enough,” he said.

Forum participants said they want to see root causes of crime such as socioeconomic challenges, trauma and mental health addressed and for incarceration not to be the answer.

Lumumba said the city will launch an office focused on violence prevention and mental health.

Community members also want to be part of violence interruption. Terun Moore of Strong Arms of Jackson asked for financial support to continue the work of going into the community and working with people impacted by violence, including young people.

Police, judges and city officials in attendance highlighted juvenile violent crime as an issue.

In 2021, Jackson police arrested a group of young men for several violent crimes around the city. One of them, a then-17-year-old Joseph Brown was linked up to several homicides, including the of a pregnant woman.

As a Hinds County Youth Court judge, Carlyn Hicks hears cases for offenses juveniles commit, but not cases such as homicide when they are charged as adults.

She wondered what kind of impact addressing underlying trauma and earlier intervention can have in the life of a child like Brown and prevent youth from going on to commit violent crimes and go into the adult criminal justice system.

Through Youth Court, Hicks has implemented diversion programs and support for children and families, but she wants to see gaps in support sustained.

“We have to have some sustainability across our systems,” she said “Otherwise I’m putting Band-Aids on fire hydrants.”

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Hinds County Youth Court Judge Carlyn Hicks Says Court Has Made Progress in Two Years

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JACKSON, Miss.— Youth Court Judge Carlyn Hicks’ first juvenile-delinquency case in July 2020 involved a 12-year-old girl who came into her courtroom in shackles that summer. “She sat at the witness table in front of the bench alone,” Hicks recalled as she addressed a captive audience at an event held on Nov. 17, 2022, at the Henley-Young-Patton Juvenile Justice Center.

“She looked up at me with fear in her eyes and uncertainty. Her attorney was present, but his table was several feet away from her to my right,” Hicks said during her “2022 of the Child in Hinds County” report.

“Her charge was disturbing the family peace; the fact was that she poured grease on the kitchen floor, and she missed the bus,” the judge continued. “This child had the called on her for this. They arrested her. They put her in the back of the police car. She was booked to the detention center for disturbing the family peace.”

The youth court judge, who ran unopposed

Read More:
https://www.mississippifreepress.org/29301/judge-children-no-longer-shackled-in-courtroom-touts-transformative-change

By: Kayode Crown
Title: Hinds County Youth Court Judge Carlyn Hicks Says Court Has Made Progress in Two Years
Sourced From: www.mississippifreepress.org/29301/judge-children-no-longer-shackled-in-courtroom-touts-transformative-change
Published Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2022 21:05:46 +0000

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