EDITORIAL/Public safety vs. parole

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Habitual offender Robert Leon Jackson of Jackson from down around Manship Street near Baptist Hospital had been out of prison for seven months on the state’s Earned Release Supervision Program when he shot and killed clerk Megan Staats and customer Jeremy Apperson at the CEFCO convenience store in Philadelphia, Miss., in August 2018.

A bill that would make more inmates eligible for the possibility of parole is before the governor, but state Sen. Jenifer Branning, a Republican from Philadelphia, has her doubts about the measure being signed and so do we.

Don’t sign the bill, Governor.

Since Jackson was first jailed in November 2002 for armed robbery at age 14 in Hinds County, he has spent over 80% of his life in jail.

Even with that amount of time behind bars, Jackson served less than 48% of his total sentencing.

Two innocent Mississippians are dead because of early release and a sloppy justice system in Hinds County that let Jackson off on attempted murder charges because the store clerk had a gun and shot him in self-defense as wasn’t shot to death himself.

We are thankful for lawmakers like Sen. Branning who are willing to stand their ground on principle.

“I have my doubts about that but we will see,” said Branning, who voted against the early parole measure.

Rep. Jill Ford, a Republican from Madison, voted against the bill as well.

Staats, 27, left a young daughter she loved spending time with when she wasn’t at work.

Apperson’s wife and young son were in the vehicle when the 33-year-old concealed-carry permit holder was gunned down at the gas pumps and never saw it coming.

The horrific events of that day when Jackson went on his rampage are still haunting. But thanks to an excellent local law enforcement response Jackson is in prison where he belongs — like a lot of these folks the Democrats and enough Republicans want to let out early.

Last week, the Senate voted 35-13 and the House voted 91-25 to pass the final version of Senate Bill 2795. Both chambers are, ironically, controlled by Republicans.

“I felt like there were not adequate protections from a public safety perspective,” Branning said of her vote against the bill.

Reeves vetoed a bill last year that was similar but not identical to the one that legislators passed.

A key difference the liberal proponents say is that this year’s bill would not allow parole consideration for anybody convicted of murder, said Senate Corrections Committee Chairman Juan Barnett, a Democrat from Heidelberg.

That would still not stop Robert Leon Jackson out on early release from driving from Jackson to Philadelphia one Saturday and murdering two people.

“I think the bill from a public safety perspective was a big improvement over the bill that was brought forward last year,” Branning said. “I just think it went just a little too far. My reasoning was just public safety.”

Proponents of the bill point out that Mississippi has some people serving long sentences for nonviolent offenses, and the state’s prison system came under Justice Department investigation last year after outbreaks of violence among inmates.

We are all for prison reform, but this bill goes too far and we hope Gov. Reeves will tap the brakes and send it back for work.


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