News Tag: Criminal Justice Reform

Reality vs. Rhetoric

May 20, 2015

The deaths of the fallen Hattiesburg police officers were unequivocally unnecessary loss of valuable and valued lives.  No young man should have his life taken as the result of a violent and vengeful act.  Last Sunday, the families and community of the fallen Hattiesburg police officers woke to a new day in our lives without these brave young men.  Also and unfortunately last Saturday, Mississippians woke to find that Governor Bryant had chosen to capitalize on this tragedy to spew divisive words instead of encouraging our community mourn and heal together. I was appalled to read his acrimonious words which clearly had been written and submitted for publication even before these brave men were laid to rest. 

Out of dignity and respect for the families, the community and our great state, I purposefully delayed submitting a response as a citizen of Mississippi and in my capacity as the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi (ACLU of MS).  I am, however, compelled to respond to the Governor’s comments.  The governor sent a message intended to invoke fear in the hearts of the “good people” in order to set conditions to further erode the freedoms of Mississippians who in coded language are referred to as the “criminal class”.  I cannot sit quietly by and let his words go unchallenged. I write this letter to submit to this state and all of its people facts over fiction.

The Governor begins his statement with “It is becoming apparentthat a deadly conflict now exists”. While this reality is just starting to become apparent to the Governor, it has been a reality in the lives of young men of color for decades.  The facts are that blacks disproportionately are subjected to abuse during traffic stops.  Blacks are nearly four times more likely than whites to experience the threat or use of force during interactions with the police.  In the first month of this year alone, nearly 100 young people of color were killed in police related encounters across this country according to killedbypolice.net which documents occurrences of people killed by nonmilitary law enforcement officers, whether in the line of duty or not, and regardless of reason or method.  This reality, while justbecoming apparent to the governor, has caused mothers and fathers when teaching their teenagers to drive to keep their hands at “ten and two” on the steering wheel when, not if, stopped by the police.  “Ten and two” not because that is what the driving manual states but because we hope that it will help our children survive a close encounter with the police.  Long before the phrase “hands up, don’t shoot” was coined, we have been forced to teach these additional lessons of survival when driving while black. 

The governor goes on to state this conflict exists between the criminal class and law enforcement and then immediately makes a reference to race.  Translated, his coded message equates the “criminal class” to people of color.  The governor’s race-based assumptions perpetuate negative racial stereotypes that are harmful to our diverse democracy, and materially impair our efforts to maintain a fair and just society. The facts, according to the FBI, in 2011, are that white people committed about 6.58 million crimes; blacks committed 2.7 million and that white individuals were arrested more often for violent crimes than any other race, accounting for 59.4 percent of those arrests. His message only further alienates communities of color from law enforcement, hinders community policing efforts, and causes further erosion credibility and trust among the people of Mississippi. 

He states “[t]his is an attack on law enforcement  . . . by the criminal class” (again his coded fear summoning messaging).  The fact is that there has been a long standing attack on young men of color.  “Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater”, according to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings.” 

“Simply put, if you don't violate the law, disobey a police officer during an intervention and don't resist arrest, your chances of being in conflict with an officer are non-existent.” This statement was among the most ludicrous statements made by the Governor.  He further asserts this is not a racial conflict and uses the word “allegedly” in reference to racial profiling as if this is a baseless notion or some whimsical myth.  The facts are racial profiling is a real and pervasive problem.  Even former President Bush and the U. S. Supreme Court acknowledged and condemned racial profiling as a reality.  Data collected across America documents the persistence of racial profiling throughout the country. “Hit rate” analysis of stops and searches innumerous jurisdictionsshow that people of color, including Blacks and Latinos, are stopped, frisked, and searched at rates far higher than whites, but areno more likely, and very oftenlesslikely, to have drugs or weapons on them. Racial profiling violates the U.S. Constitution by betraying the fundamental American promise of equal protection under the law and infringing on the Fourth Amendment guarantee that all people be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. 

“Organized destructive movements” these words penned by the governor are reminiscent of rhetoric of the “good people”, who commonly referred to themselves as the White Citizens Council during the 60s and 70s,  “a time of social unrest” according to the governor.  Historical fact refers to this period of as the Civil Rights Movement.  An organized movement, such as the Civil Rights movement, typically arises when intolerable conditions imposed by an oppressive government have caused a people to be “sick and tired of being sick and tired” in the words of the Civil Rights veteran and heroine, Fannie Lou Hammer.  The organized civil movement of peoples of color joined and supported by people of different races brought about positive change for all people of this country.  I wonder if Governor Bryant were governor in the 60s or 70s would he have referred actions by the Citizens' Councils, white segregationists and supremacists, who organized to oppose integration and the Supreme Court decision, or the Ole Miss riots as an “organized destructive movements”.  Or maybe he would have stood on the steps and said  about the Civil Rights Movement that such undertaking a will not come here because “our people are just simply better behaved and more respectful of authority” as he stated on May 1, 2015 in reference to rioting in Baltimore and other incidents of racial discord in America.  To many of us, his words were received as coded language “our [black] people” know their place”. 

The governor calls on the “good people” to once again stand for law and order.  It is this type of speechmaking which spurred Jim Crow laws.  I, therefore, call on all the people of Mississippi to stand for and embrace fairness that we esteem as Americans and to build trust not discord between police and our communities that is essential to keeping all of us safe.  I also implore all Mississippians to be aware and to be vigilant in defense of freedoms.  Be ever watchful in the next legislative session, be it special or regular.  The Governor’s message should be considered an early warning that knee jerk fear baited legislation will be introduced to further erode the rights, freedoms and liberties of Mississippians, especially those he has attempted to disguise as a “criminal class”. 

The ACLU of MS in no way condones criminal activities or the unlawful killing of any law enforcement.  Equally we oppose the abuse and unnecessary killing of ordinary citizens at the hands of law enforcement officers.  I reiterate my intent here is not to further divide but to delineate what is truth from rhetoric intended to expand the still existing rift the between the people of this state.  Only together will Mississippi be made better.

 

ACLU of Mississippi Releases Mobile Justice App for iPhones

May 04, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Morgan Miller, 601-354-3408, mmiller@aclu-ms.org

JACKSON, Miss – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi launched the iPhone version of a smart phone application (app) called Mobile Justice Mississippi—an empowerment tool for those who feel their civil rights are being violated by law enforcement officers.

The iPhone app, which can be downloaded for free through the ACLU of Mississippi website, has three main functions and Know Your Rights information. Record allows citizens to capture exchanges between police officers and themselves or other community members in audio and video files that are automatically sent to the ACLU of Mississippi. Witness sends out an alert when someone is stopped by police so that community members can move toward the location and document the interaction. Report gives the app user the option to complete an incident report and send it directly to the ACLU of Mississippi for review. Know Your Rights provides an overview of what rights protect you when you are stopped by law enforcement officers.

The Mobile Justice Android app, released last November, has been downloaded approximately 300 times. “We are glad that Mobile Justice is now available for iPhone. Most smartphone users can now access this important tool to hold Mississippi law enforcement agencies accountable for their actions,” said Jennifer Riley-Collins, ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director.

ACLU affiliates in Missouri, Oregon and Nebraska are joining the ACLU of Mississippi in releasing the Mobile Justice iPhone app. Funded by a grant from the National ACLU, the Mobile Justice app was developed by Quadrant 2 – the same developer that created the Stop and Frisk Watch app for the New York Civil Liberties Union to address racial profiling.

Learn more about Mobile Justice Mississippi and download the app from the ACLU of Mississippi website. For those who do not have smart phones or have limited capacity to utilize them because of limited cellular coverage in more rural areas, the ACLU of Mississippi is conducting Know Your Rights trainings.

Update: Bills Dead or Alive - March 30th Deadline

March 31, 2015

Monday, March 30th was the deadline for conference reports to be filed or the bills will die. The conference report must be adopted by April 2nd. The Governor may sign bills into law or veto them throughout the week. The 2015 Legislative Session adjourns on April 5th. 

Bad Bills

HB177 - Prohibits the application of foreign law. Signed into law by the Governor.

We opposed HB177. It is unnecessary for the Mississippi Legislature to define foreign law. 

HB257 - To provide for DNA collection (for HIV AIDS testing) from persons arrested for violent crimes. Signed into law by the Governor.

We opposed HB257 because collecting and storing DNA from arrestees turns a fundamental tenet of our justice system—innocent until proven guilty—on its head. This is a due process issue, as the taking and use of DNA by law enforcement constitutes a “search” and therefore requires a court order or warrant that is supported by probable cause. Automatic testing of arrestees provides law enforcement a way to circumvent this essential safeguard.

Good Bills

HB602 - Authorizes the creation of the Re-Entry Council, purpose of which is to help inmates successfully reintegrate into society. Signed into law by the Governor.

We support HB602 because the bill promotes principles of restorative justice and rehabiliation. Mississippi must continue to evaluate it's prison system to ensure that former offenders have a fair chance at living a crime free life beyond bars. This will in turn reduce recidivism rates and decrease our prison population.

HB836 - Requires state agencies to enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Conference report adopted. 

We support this bill because there are too few opportunities for people with disabilities to be able to get real employment that pays real wages. Therefore, requiring that the state agencies responsible for administering services to people with disabilities also prioritize finding opportunities for their employment is both advantageous and for the good of all Mississippians.

HB404 - Authorizes the MS Dept. of Youth Services branch of the Dept. of Human Services to operate "Adolescent Opportunity Program" instead of Adolescent Offender Program. Program would include academic, tutoring, literacy, mentoring, vocational training, substance abuse treatment, family counseling and anger management. Programs may include, but shall not be limited to, after school and weekend programs, job readiness programs, home detention programs, community service conflict resolution programs, restitution and community service. Signed into law by the Governor.

The state of Mississippi must find practical alternatives to sending children into the industrial prison complex. We support HB404 because the bill seeks to address the needs of troubled youth by getting to the root of the problem. By providing academic tutoring, vocational training, substance abuse treatment, family counseling and anger management instead of sending youth to juvenile offender programs, we give kids an opportunity at a life outside of the confines of jail and makes an investment in the future of the State of Mississippi.

SB2545 - To Create The Mississippi Public Defender Oversight And Accountability Commission, creates statewide standards. Died in conference.

We support SB2545 because it promotes community policing, transparency, and accountability.

SB2332 - Training for school resource officers. Amended to just include training prior to placement and a pathway to access additional training by parent or school district complaints. Conference report filed. 

We support SB2332. School Resource Officers must be provided with the tools necessary to ensure safety, while respecting the rights of students and the overall school climate. By requiring that SROs be trained about their roles prior to entering the schoolhouse, and equipping them with knowledge regarding adolescent development, this bill creates a safe school environment for all and reduces reliance on the criminal justice system.

SB2107 - Person First in Government Language. Amended to coincide with current law, conference report filed.

We support this bill because currently Mississippi's laws use outdated and offensive terminology in reference to people with disabilities. Everyone deserves respect. The language that we use on a daily basis demonstrates the respect, or lack thereof, that we have for one another. Therefore, we must change our language to reflect that people with disabilities are valued citizens in the state of Mississippi.

SB2780 - The Mississippi Medical Emergency Good Samaritan Act, is a bill to provide immunity from arrest or prosecution for certain drug violations by a person seeking treatment for a drug overdose. Veteod but combined with HB 692 and signed into law by the Governor.

We support this bill because it has the potential to save lives. It is a step back from the enforcement mentality toward drug use. Mississippi cannot incarcerate its way out of the drug abuse problem. It is past time to address substance abuse as a public health matter, not a law enforcement matter. This bill is a small step in that direction.

HB2127 - To clarify the provisions of law that authorize in-state tuition for nonresident students who are United States Veterans; to authorize in state tuition for persons who are eligible for Veterans’ Educational Assistance under Title 38 of the United States Code. Signed into law by the Governor.

HB957 - To create the Commission on the Future of Medicaid and Health Care in Mississippi. Died in Conference.

We support HB957 as amended by the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. The intention of this legislation is supportive of needed systemic reforms but the composition as written does not include people affected by any proposed reforms. 

Faith Leaders across Mississippi Unite for Prison Reform

March 19, 2015

A new organization of faith leaders addressed for-profit prisons at the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) task force hearing on Friday, March 20th. The coalition is called Clergy for Prison Reform (CPR) and they are seeking to highlight the desperate need to reform the state's deeply flawed corrections system.

We are pleased with the faith leaders' interest and initiative regarding the issue of mass incarceration and the impact of private prisons as a contributing factor to Mississippi's prison population.

For more information about CPR visit: www.clergyforprisonreform.com

View the press release about CPR. 

ACLU-MS Comment on Revised JPS Restraint and Seclusion Policy

March 06, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Morgan Miller, ACLU of Mississippi, 601-354-3408, mmiller@aclu-ms.org

JACKSON, Miss – On February 17, the Jackson Public School (JPS) Board of Trustees adopted a revised student restraint policy after advocacy groups publicly commented at a JPS Board meeting. After the meeting, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi worked in partnership with Dr. Cedric Gray and members of the school board to craft a policy that outlines the use of restraint and seclusion techniques in school.

In December, the ACLU of Mississippi, the Mississippi Center for Justice, Mississippi Parent Training Institute, and Families as Allies asserted that the policy failed to focus on creating a safe environment for students and faculty, lacked clarity in the definitions of the techniques that open the door for harm, and did not promote positive behavioral interventions, among other concerns.

The following is a statement from the ACLU of Mississippi Legal Director Charles Irvin about the revised policy:

“The changes enacted by the Jackson Public School District ensure that students can be assured that school is a safe place and are free to learn. The revised policy has more emphasis on prevention, robust definitions, more specificity to the training component and inclusion of proper reporting guidelines.

We applaud their efforts in taking a generic policy and bringing added clarity for the benefit of students, parents and administrators.”

View the revised policy.

Bills Dead Or Alive - March 3rd Deadline

March 04, 2015

Tuesday, March 3rd was the deadline for bills to pass out of committee from the opposite chamber. Senate bills had to pass out of House committees and House bills had to pass out of Senate committees. 

Any bill that did not make it out of committee on either side died. Bills that passed now move on to the floor of the opposite chamber. Below are the bills that could affect civil liberties in Mississippi and their current statuses. 

The next deadline for the bills to pass on the floor of the opposite chamber is March 11th.

Alive

Bad Bills

HB177 - Prohibits the application of foreign law.

We oppose HB177. It is unnecessary for the Mississippi Legislature to define foreign law. 

HB257 - To provide for DNA collection (for HIV AIDS testing) from persons arrested for violent crimes.

We oppose HB257 because collecting and storing DNA from arrestees turns a fundamental tenet of our justice system—innocent until proven guilty—on its head. This is a due process issue, as the taking and use of DNA by law enforcement constitutes a “search” and therefore requires a court order or warrant that is supported by probable cause. Automatic testing of arrestees provides law enforcement a way to circumvent this essential safeguard.

Good Bills

HB602 - Authorizes the creation of the Re-Entry Council, purpose of which is to help inmates successfully reintegrate into society.

We support HB602 because the bill promotes principles of restorative justice and rehabiliation. Mississippi must continue to evaluate it's prison system to ensure that former offenders have a fair chance at living a crime free life beyond bars. This will in turn reduce recidivism rates and decrease our prison population.

HB836 - Requires state agencies to enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

We support this bill because there are too few opportunities for people with disabilities to be able to get real employment that pays real wages. Therefore, requiring that the state agencies responsible for administering services to people with disabilities also prioritize finding opportunities for their employment is both advantageous and for the good of all Mississippians.

HB404 - Authorizes the MS Dept. of Youth Services branch of the Dept. of Human Services to operate "Adolescent Opportunity Program" instead of Adolescent Offender Program. Program would include academic, tutoring, literacy, mentoring, vocational training, substance abuse treatment, family counseling and anger management. Programs may include, but shall not be limited to, after school and weekend programs, job readiness programs, home detention programs, community service conflict resolution programs, restitution and community service.

The state of Mississippi must find practical alternatives to sending children into the industrial prison complex. We support HB404 because the bill seeks to address the needs of troubled youth by getting to the root of the problem. By providing academic tutoring, vocational training, substance abuse treatment, family counseling and anger management instead of sending youth to juvenile offender programs, we give kids an opportunity at a life outside of the confines of jail and makes an investment in the future of the State of Mississippi.

SB2545 - To Create The Mississippi Public Defender Oversight And Accountability Commission, creates statewide standards

We support SB2545 because it promotes community policing, transparency, and accountability.

SB2332 - Training for school resource officers

We support SB2332. School Resource Officers must be provided with the tools necessary to ensure safety, while respecting the rights of students and the overall school climate. By requiring that SROs be trained about their roles prior to entering the schoolhouse, and equipping them with knowledge regarding adolescent development, this bill creates a safe school environment for all and reduces reliance on the criminal justice system.

SB2107 - Person First in Government Language

We support this bill because currently Mississippi's laws use outdated and offensive terminology in reference to people with disabilities. Everyone deserves respect. The language that we use on a daily basis demonstrates the respect, or lack thereof, that we have for one another. Therefore, we must change our language to reflect that people with disabilities are valued citizens in the state of Mississippi.

HB2780 - The Mississippi Medical Emergency Good Samaritan Act, is a bill to provide immunity from arrest or prosecution for certain drug violations by a person seeking treatment for a drug overdose.

We support this bill because it has the potential to save lives. It is a step back from the enforcement mentality toward drug use. Mississippi cannot incarcerate its way out of the drug abuse problem. It is past time to address substance abuse as a public health matter, not a law enforcement matter. This bill is a small step in that direction.

HB578 - Provides in state tuition for nonresident students entitled to federal Veterans’ Educational Assistance

HB2127 - To clarify the provisions of law that authorize in-state tuition for nonresident students who are United States Veterans; to authorize in state tuition for persons who are eligible for Veterans’ Educational Assistance under Title 38 of the United States Code.

HB957 - To create the Commission on the Future of Medicaid and Health Care in Mississippi.

We support HB957 as amended by the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. The intention of this legislation is supportive of needed systemic reforms but the composition as written does not include people affected by any proposed reforms. 

Dead

Bad Bills

HB490 - Prohibits State of MS and political subdivisions from adopting "Agenda 21" or any other international law that contravenes the Constitution of MS or the US.

HB1338 - To Clarify That A Cause Of Action For Wrongful Death Includes An Unborn Child

HB1305 -To Protect The Identities Of All Individuals And Entities Who Comprise The Execution Including, But Not Limited To, Any Supplier Of Lethal Injection Drugs

HB1069 -Prohibits A Person From Participating In A Primary Unless He Intends To Support The Nominations Made

HB932 -To Require Registrars To Mail A Voter Registration Card To The Mailing Address Provided On An Applicant's Voter Registration Form

Good Bills

HB1051 -To Revise The Definition Of "technical Violation" For Probationary Purposes; To Provide That A Technical Violation Shall Not Include The Commission Of A New Crime Or The Absconding From Supervision By A Probationer

SB2295 - Requires the State Superintendent of Education to report on the number of students arrested as a result of any unlawful activity which occurred on educational property or during a school-related activity.

Saving a Life is More Important than Making an Arrest

February 19, 2015

Senate Bill 2780, the Mississippi Medical Emergency Good Samaritan Act, is a bill to provide immunity from arrest or prosecution for certain drug violations by a person seeking treatment for a drug overdose. We support SB2780 because we want to encourage people to seek medical care on behalf of themselves and others, in any emergency situation. SB2780 passed the Senate and now moves to the House.

Unintentional drug overdose is now considered to be a leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Overdose bystanders may not call for medical assistance for fear of being arrested for drug-related crimes. Good Samaritan Policies are life-saving measures that enable people to make responsible decisions by shielding them from punishment when they call for medical help during an emergency relating to alcohol or other drugs.

Since the threat of punitive policies can often cause hesitation during confusing and stressful party situations, the existence of a Good Samaritan Policy is essential to ensuring that people are able to stay alive and receive help when they are in trouble. Furthermore, this bill, if passed, would be a step back from the state’s enforcement mentality toward drug use.

If our objective is to ensure that fewer people are harmed by drug use, we should emphasize and fund access to treatment and care, not focus on criminalizing those who need the help. Drug policy in this country is tragically and ineffectively tied to criminal justice tools and frameworks. Policymakers need to make the switch from approaching drug use as a criminal justice issue to an issue that would be much better solved with health care. It is unfair, unjust, unworkable and downright dangerous to try to police a health problem.

Saving a life is far more important than making an arrest.

Mississippi cannot incarcerate its way out of the drug abuse problem. It is past time to address substance abuse as a public health matter, not a law enforcement matter. This bill is also a small step in that direction.

Tell your representative to support SB 2780.

Mississippi Risks Engaging in Human Experimentation with SB2543 and HB1305

February 12, 2015

Two pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 2543 and House Bill 1305, amend a statute in Mississippi to prevent disclosure of the suppliers of drugs used in executions. These execution secrecy bills cannot be allowed to move forward. SB 2543 passed the Senate committee and now moves the Senate floor. HB 1305 has already passed the House floor and moves to the Senate committee.

In light of the botched executions conducted around the country, it is more important than ever that there be accountability and transparency when it comes to the drugs and suppliers used in executions. SB2543 and HB1305 will put up a wall of secrecy around the source of drugs to be used in executions. The secrecy makes it impossible for the courts and the public to know whether executions will be carried out humanely and in compliance with state and federal laws and the U.S. Constitution.

For the past few years, states have been grappling with the unavailability of some drugs that had previously been used in executions. In response, some states have turned to experimental drugs and drug combinations, which poses serious risks of executions not working as planned. Other states have used compounded drugs. Without information about the pharmacies that compound the drugs and the raw ingredients used, it is impossible to say whether a compounded product will be effective and work as intended.

Experimental drug combinations were used in the horrifically botched executions of Clayton Lockett, Joseph Wood, and Dennis McGuire, calling into question whether Departments of Corrections are selecting drugs and doses capable of producing a humane execution. 

The death penalty is the most extreme punishment possible. If Mississippi continues to execute death row prisoners, the government must be transparent and accountable to the people of this state, in whose name it is carrying out this ultimate and irreversible punishment. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has stated “transparency in government is critical to its integrity.” There should be no exception given to pharmaceutical companies related to their role in execution. 

If we are to have executions at all, they must not be conducted like hastily thrown together human science experiments. This legislation is unsafe, unnecessary and will cause Mississippi to incur more litigation expenses and delays in the courts.

TAKE ACTION and tell your lawmaker to oppose SB 2543 and HB 1305. 

ACLU of Mississippi 2015 Legislative Priorities

January 28, 2015

By Keia Johnson, ACLU of Mississippi Legislative Strategist

As a new legislative session is now under way, we are working with legislators to advance our shared beliefs in democracy. Our agenda is simple. It is about constitutional principles, evidence-based solutions, and basic fairness; it’s one that all legislators should support.

Legislative priorities include:

“Person First” HB408 & SB2107

What do you call a person with a disability? A person.

Person First Language is an objective and respectful way to speak about people with disabilities by emphasizing the person first, rather than the disability. Currently, sections of the Mississippi Code make reference to persons with disabilities using arcane and offensive terminology. It is the belief of the ACLU of MS that the language used to describe a person or group is powerful as it reflects our society’s true feelings towards that person or group. Therefore, HB408 & SB107 seek to retroactively amend all sections of the MS Code to ensure that all current offensive terminology is removed and replaced with “Person First” respectful language.

View our one pager on Person First legislation.

“Tuition Equity” HB652 & SB2498

Charging young aspiring Americans out-of-state tuition, pushing a college education out of the reach of many, is cruel and a gross waste of valuable human capital.

Mississippi currently requires thousands of Mississippi students to pay out-of-state tuition – rates three to four times higher than in-state tuition rates – simply because of their immigration status. It should be noted that most of these students have already lived in Mississippi for most of their lives and therefore the state of Mississippi has already invested millions of tax dollars into their secondary school educations.

It is with this in mind, the ACLU of Mississippi has partnered with (MIRA) Mississippi’s Immigrant’s Rights Association to propose a Tuition Equity bill which will allow all young people who have attended and graduated from MS High schools, to pay in state tuition rates at our colleges and universities.

View our one pager on Tuition Equity legislation.

“School Resource Officer Training” HB478 & SB2332

Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline in Mississippi, begins with decriminalizing our students and keeping them in our classrooms.

By criminalizing typical adolescent behaviors, we are taking students out of the classroom, funneling them into the juvenile justice system and school-to-prison pipeline. Even still, more and more Mississippi schools are utilizing some form of school-based policing services in order to combat disciplinary issues. The most commonly used form of school-based policeman are known as School Resource Officers (SROs). These men and women are placed in school districts and expected to discipline, counsel, and in some cases, instruct kids. However, they are typically law enforcement and are not trained to deal with students and typical adolescent behavior.

In an effort to combat this issue, The ACLU of MS has proposed HB478 & SB2332 which require mandatory training for school resource officers in areas such as child adolescent development, cultural competence and building relationships with students; deescalating violent situations; identifying the social, emotional, and mental needs of the students; directing youth to appropriate services rather than using force; and due process protections for students.

View our one pager on School Resource Officer Training legislation. 

“Anti-Bullying” HB750 & SB2474

According to the Mississippi Department of Health Vital Statistics in 2013, 635 youth ages 10-24 have committed suicide since 2000 – an average of 49 deaths per year. The most often-cited cause of this is bullying.  

Mississippi has a bullying and harassment problem within its public school system. The state’s current anti-bullying statute fails to require school’s to educate staff on how to recognize and react to the signs of bullying. More alarmingly, it fails to enumerate specific categories of bullying. It must be clear that Mississippi does not condone and will take action in response to conduct that interferes with all students’ opportunity to learn.

HB750 & SB2474 strengthen Mississippi’s existing anti-bullying law by clearly identifying common characteristics that all-too-often become the target of bullying in schools, including disability, appearance, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. The Mississippi Legislature has a duty to in provide a safe, orderly, and respectful school environment that is conducive to teaching and learning. This legislation would greatly champion their cause.

View our Anti-Bullying one pager.

“Police Body Cameras” HB1279

The ACLU recognizes the potential that police body cameras have to increase police transparency. With good policies in place, recording of police-civilian encounters will promote police accountability, deter officer and civilian misconduct, and provide objective evidence to help resolve civilian complaints against police without significantly infringing on privacy. However, without such protections body cameras can do more harm than good. Laws must have in place proper police usage guidelines and privacy limitations.

In an effort to ensure that police body cameras are utilized properly in the state of Mississippi we are working in active support of HB1279. This bill requires patrol policemen to wear an actively recording body camera while they are on duty. It allows police to stop recording in very limited defined circumstances and mandates procedures and time limitations for the storing of all recorded encounters. With the implementation of a bill such as this we can be sure that body cameras will be used for the benefit of officers and citizens alike.

View our one pager on Police Body Cameras.


The ACLU of Mississippi will also continue to monitor the progress of proposed bills in the Legislature. We will continue to actively support the efforts of other groups, allies, and legislators who aim to work in the best interest of all citizens of this great state.

Stay up to date during the 2015 legislative session: Sign up for action alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

ACLU of Mississippi 2015 Equity Agenda

January 21, 2015

Every day in Mississippi, marginalized communities including communities of color, immigrant communities, people with disabilities, women, and the LGBT community face barriers to true opportunity. Our 2015 Equity Agenda highlights the unfinished business of achieving “justice for all” in Mississippi. 

Mississippi is a state growing in diversity but failing to thrive in racial, cultural and economic equity. Making Mississippi better will not happen overnight. Tell lawmakers to support the ACLU of Mississippi 2015 Equity Agenda.

The 2015 Equity Agenda sets out priorities and acts as a guide to issues that remain unaddressed in Mississippi. We expect our leaders to speak up for the disenfranchised and oppose policies that are detrimental to the welfare of our state.

Hold your representative accountable and tell them to support progress in Mississippi this legislative session.

View our 2015 Equity Agenda.

Stay up to date during the 2015 legislative session: Sign up for action alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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