Our focus on smart justice also means more resources to fight violent crimes: murders, home invasions and shootings. For those people that need to be in jail, we need to reduce the case backlog and get them behind bars faster. To get that done it is my duty to be a District Attorney that’s is not just tough but smart on crime.
Provide greater support to crime victims and their families
We want to help rebuild families and communities hit by senseless violence. It makes no sense to stack our jail with individuals that need treatment programs and counseling.
Utilize mental health and rehab programs and drug courts
So that people dealing with addiction and other issues can get the help and treatment they need.
This policy promotes community safety by implementing practices proven to reduce reoffending while rehabilitating probationers. The number of probationers will be reduced, probation terms will be shorter and more focused, conditions will be more limited and directed toward addressing individual needs, and probation officers will, as a result, have sufficient time and resources to focus on high-risk individuals who need care and attention. Finally, this policy ensures that violations are treated proportionally to the conduct alleged.
The goal of this office is to eliminate cash bail and excessively onerous pre-trial conditions while better protecting the safety and health of the community. A diverse set of stakeholders—including prosecutors and law enforcement, criminal justice reformers, and conservative groups—agree that the unfair money bail system must be fixed. A poll of Mississippi voters found that 67% across party lines support “ending the practice of keeping people in jail before trial if they have been charged with a misdemeanor or non-violent felony crime.”
Money bail and onerous pretrial conditions impact the most vulnerable in our community and do not make us safer. Over half of the people in Mississippi jails have not been convicted of a crime, and incarcerating those individuals costs Mississippi taxpayers over $100 million each year. And as with nearly every aspect of the criminal legal system, the money bail system unfairly targets people of color, who are more likely than white people to remain in jail following an arrest, even when facing the same offense and when having similar criminal backgrounds. In Mississippi, bail amounts are most often set pursuant to a schedule, which fails to properly consider a person’s ability to pay, and can thus lead to people languishing in jail for months or even years.
As prosecutors, we each possess a sophisticated toolkit from which to fashion safe and just outcomes during the pretrial process. Incarceration is one of those tools, but nonetheless it often is the least effective. It is up to us to ensure that each person becomes as stable and productive as he or she can, as soon as possible. That often means that declining prosecution, diverting a case, or referring the individual to addiction treatment, job training, or inpatient psychiatric care for an acute mental illness yields better results than jail. When incarceration is absolutely necessary to protect public safety, we should aim to incarcerate each individual for as little time as necessary and to leave room for the opportunity for people to grow and change while they are incarcerated. Almost everyone whom we put into jail and prison will return to the community, and there is a clear and direct link between the stability and preparedness of the person to re-enter society and the safety of our communities.
Going forward, plea-bargaining within the office should be driven by the following overarching principles:
- Imprisonment is a last resort, and it should only be utilized if all other interventions and rehabilitative efforts have failed or proved inadequate to protect against the threat of actual physical harm to persons.
- Diversion should be offered whenever possible, and it should be the expected resolution for most individuals charged with their first offense.
- Addiction and mental illness, and the offenses that follow from them, should never serve as a justification for imprisonment. This must be true in the context of initial case resolutions, as well as violations of probation premised on positive drug tests or new offenses influenced by a person’s addiction or mental illness.