Enforcement, courts key to moving the needle in Jackson
The first order function of government and society is to provide for the security of its people. Specific action items for Jackson: (1) Enforcement. (2) Courts.
(1) Enforcement. This city is under-policed, and it is vastly under-policed. We essentially have large swaths of the city that are not policed, and not because police don't care but because there are not enough police.
There is vast agreement in the fields of criminal justice and criminology that police presence deters crime. Think high school classroom with and without a teacher in the room. We have a lot of classrooms without a teacher and do not have an appreciable police presence citywide.
We need to axe unnecessary programs, some of them very expensive like the zoo, and invest in policing. Security is *the* first order function of government and society, and we're not doing it. Without security, you have nothing. The city and mayor controls policing directly.
(2) Courts. Courts move too slow, and this jams up the system and enforcement before it. This either does in effect or in fact discourage/prevent enforcement from sending new arrests (i.e., "inputs”) into the system.
Speedy trials are important whether you view it as a civil libertarian or law and order type. To the civil libertarian (and hopefully everyone), constitutional rights matter and people have a right to a speedy trial.
To the law and order type, evidence becomes more complicated over time (e.g., witnesses move or die) and cases harder to prosecute. Judges and DAs can work together to move cases faster.
Judges can generally even force it. Sometimes they can't force it, and I'm speaking specifically here about the backlog at the state crime lab which runs reports for homicide cases and others and delays in results of mental health evaluations in cases where that defense is raised.
The state can help with the state crime lab and mental health evaluations. These issues delay prosecutions within the state's county courts. The city and mayor do not directly control courts or state crime lab or mental health evaluations, but they have a voice in pushing the issue *AND NOT JUST pushing blame that direction when they are not handling enforcement*.
So these are the two sides (enforcement and courts) where we move the needle. When one side points to the other, as they so often do, they are in part telling the truth and in part lying.
This gets solved by the mayor, judges, DA, police chief, sheriff, etc. all sitting together at a table and solving the problem. Like adults. The mayor can and should have called a meeting like this eons ago, but maybe we will see some conversations in the coming days. Maybe something positive happens.
The mayor has a huge impact on crime through policing and the priority he places on it. Huge. To date, there has been NO priority placed on it. That needs to change, and I think it only changes with public pressure. I believe the price tag is lives.
Matt Allen is a Jackson attorney and lives in the Belhaven neighborhood with his family. He will be awarded a PhD in Criminal Justice through the University of Southern Mississippi in December.