Letter from DA Jody Owens

Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens at desk

Friends & Fellow Citizens:

After a decade as the Mississippi State Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), I accepted the reality that to achieve systemic reform it is imperative to be a part of the systems that you want to change.  Despite years of class action lawsuits and legislative victories, my talented colleagues and I could not achieve the ultimate goal of ensuring that the criminal justice system is effective, values victims’ rights, and administers justice without infringing on the rights of the accused.  The notion that over-prosecuting our citizens creates safer communities has proved false.  Leading the nation in mass incarceration is not a positive statistic for our State; instead, it is indicative of our justice system’s failure to address the underlying issues that led to such a standing.  In other words, our justice system is reactive, not proactive. It is a band aide for society’s woes, not a cure.

I ran for District Attorney for Mississippi’s Seventh Judicial District, which encompasses the State’s seat of government, with the belief that our Capitol City would not be safer until we learn to focus on the deeper issues that plague the criminal justice system. Issues such as addressing mental health; treating drug addiction as the public health crisis that it is; creating a community where our children can safely enjoy the advantages of the great education our school systems provide; and, whenever possible, diverting first-time nonviolent offenders, especially juveniles, from the criminal justice system. 

Throughout our campaign and during my first term in office, I have prioritized the principles of smart justice when deciding who, what, and how we choose to prosecute. Historically, prosecutors have promoted policies that grew the mass incarceration crisis; policies that disproportionately effect low-income families and marginalized people of color. These practices have not achieved the desired result, instead, the crime rate has skyrocketed, and our communities continue to suffer.  If we want a different result, we must do things differently. As Hinds County District Attorney, I vow to aggressively prosecute those who commit crimes and will always protect the innocent; however, I believe that we cannot achieve true justice, until we address the societal issues that put the gun or the knife in the offender’s hands in the first place. Again, we must be proactive and not reactive.

The opportunity to serve as the chief law enforcement officer in Hinds County is the greatest honor of my life. I promise to lead this office in a transparent way and to never we forget we owe accountability to the citizens of our great county. Thank you for the privilege to serve you.