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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
January 09, 2015
By Nusrat Choudhury, Staff Attorney, ACLU Racial Justice Program
The tragic killing of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last August has brought much needed attention to the epidemic of racialized policing in America. In Ferguson and cities throughout the country, police stop, search, and arrest black people and other communities of color at rates grossly disproportionate to their population.
In late December, the Missouri Supreme Court took an important step to addressing the problem: curbing the use of municipal courts as debtors' prisons. An editorial in the St. Louis Post- Dispatch explains the vicious cycle linking racial profiling and debtors' prisons in St. Louis County:
It works like this: A black driver gets pulled over in Bel-Ridge, for example, for failure to signal. Maybe a headlight is out on the car, too, or the registration has expired. The driver gets a summons for two or three violations. Hundred dollar fines are stacked on top of each other.
Violators sit and wait on the one night a month the municipal court is in session, stewing as lawyers, most of whom are white, get preferential treatment. They get called up first by the judge to dispose of the cases of their paying clients.
Those who can't afford a lawyer often can't afford the fines, either. So when their turn finally comes, they tell the court they can't pay. They may be threatened with jail if they don't come up with the money. If they miss a payment or a court date, a warrant can be issued for their arrest.
In St. Louis County, as throughout the country, modern-day debtors prisons exist despite the fact that the United States formally abolished the incarceration of people who failed to pay off debts nearly two centuries ago. In the process, poor people –disproportionately people of color – and their families suffer from the collateral impacts of jailing on employment, and housing.
In September 2014, shortly after the killing of Brown, lawyers from Arch City Defenders and law professors at St. Louis University sought help in breaking this cycle. They wrote to the Missouri Supreme Court asking for a change to the court rules that guide judges in collecting fines and fees from defendants.
The Missouri Supreme Court showed that it understood what's going on. It revised a Missouri court rule to explicitly allow judges to permit defendants to pay through installment plans and to waive or reduce fines for those who cannot pay. The rule now also requires judges to schedule a "show cause" hearing before issuing arrest warrants for failure to appear, which gives defendants an opportunity to explain why they did not or cannot pay their fines.
And, crucially important, the rule now provides that when a defendant is held in contempt of court for failure to pay, the fine may be collected by the same means used to enforce court orders awarding money damages to a party.
This means that a Missouri court cannot use its contempt authority to jail a person who is simply too poor to pay a fine or fee. Instead, it must use the same procedures routinely employed to enforcement judgments, such as ordering a lien on real or personal property. Using these methods requires providing important procedural safeguards and respecting statutory exemptions from collection for home and personal property, both of which help to protect the poor.
In a country where the racial wealth gap remains stark, the link between driving while black and jailed for being poor has a devastating impact on people and communities of color. The Missouri Supreme Court showed that it understands the need to break the cycle.
Other courts should follow its lead.
December 12, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Morgan Miller, ACLU of Mississippi, 601-354-3408, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sid Scott, Mississippi Center for Justice, 769-230-2841; email@example.com
JACKSON, Miss – On Tuesday, December 16, advocacy groups will publicly comment on a new restraint and seclusion policy at the Jackson Public Schools (JPS) Board of Trustees meeting. The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, the Mississippi Center for Justice, Mississippi Parent Training Institute, and Families as Allies will express concerns on a revised policy that the JPS Board is proposing to enact.
The policy outlines the use of restraint and seclusion techniques in school. The groups assert that the policy fails to focus on creating a safe environment for students and faculty, lacks clarity in the definitions of the techniques that open the door for harm, and does not promote positive behavioral interventions, among other concerns.
Advocacy organizations will present concerns regarding a restraint and seclusion policy to the Jackson Public School Board.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, the Mississippi Center for Justice, Mississippi Parent Training Institute, and Families as Allies commenting on a new policy proposed by the Jackson Public School Board of Trustees.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 5:30pm.
JPS Board Meeting Room
621 South State Street
Jackson, MS 39201
November 25, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Morgan Miller, ACLU of Mississippi, 601-354-3408; firstname.lastname@example.org
JACKSON, Miss – The following is a statement from American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi Executive Director, Jennifer Riley-Collins, about the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
“The decision is part of a national pattern of police using excessive, and sometimes fatal, force against people of color, often during routine encounters. Understandably, many people in our community are angry and frustrated about the grand jury’s failure to indict Officer Wilson. Some will take to the streets as part of peaceful protests to express their grievances. The right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy. As an organization dedicated to protecting people’s First Amendment rights, the ACLU of Mississippi is here to serve as a resource for protestors who need to know their rights.
People should continue to peacefully protest the frequency with which police officers, and the departments they work for, are not held accountable for their actions. While many law enforcement officers carry out their jobs admirably and with great respect for the communities they serve, we cannot ignore the systematic use of excessive force employed by some police officers.
There is an erosion of the protect and serve role expected from law enforcement allowed by the total lack of police transparency and accountability; militarization of departments so they appear and operate more like an occupying military force; and the failure of police departments to eliminate racial profiling.
The ACLU of Mississippi will not let up in its tireless pursuit of defending the rights of citizens to protest and preventing future tragedies like the one in Ferguson from happening again. Through our litigation and public policy advocacy, we will remain in the forefront of working for meaningful and long-lasting systemic reforms of police departments.”
November 24, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Morgan Miller, 601-354-3408, email@example.com
JACKSON, Miss – The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi Foundation (ACLU-MS) received a two-year $350,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support a school safety project. The project seeks to improve outcomes for Mississippi’s students with disabilities and students of color by restricting the use of restraints and seclusion on children in schools.
“This generous grant will allow us to empower families and communities thereby increasing opportunities for Mississippi’s vulnerable children to have a fair chance at success in school and life,” said Jennifer Riley-Collins, Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi.
The project will engage of civic, community, corporate, and congregational leaders, promote public awareness, monitor use of restraint and seclusion in school districts and advocate for the implementation of positive behavior interventions and supports that are safe, effective, and evidence-based.
Mississippi is one of five states that lack a statute, regulation, or even nonbinding guidelines. The lack of regulation has resulted in the use of seclusion and restraint on disabled children becoming common place among Mississippi schools despite the potential dangers and lack of evidence of their effectiveness. Data also has revealed the disproportionate use of exclusionary discipline with students with disabilities and students of color who also experience disabilities. “The lack of regulation has resulted in the use of seclusion and restraint on disabled children becoming common place among Mississippi schools despite the potential dangers and lack of evidence of their effectiveness,” stated Charles Irvin, Legal Director for the ACLU of Mississippi.
ACLU-MS has been a champion of children’s rights. ACLU-MS has produced a number of reports including Missing the Mark and Handcuffs on Success which have illuminated extreme and destructive approaches to school discipline which not only have directly harmed students and families, but also have caused teachers, law enforcement officials, and community members to have their lives and careers made more difficult by these ineffective and counter-productive school discipline policies and practices. As a result of these efforts, reforms have been implemented which have improved outcomes for children across the state.
About the ACLU of Mississippi
The ACLU of Mississippi is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization founded in 1969 that defends and expands the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Mississippians guaranteed under the United States and Mississippi Constitutions, through its litigation, legislative and public education programs. It is an affiliate of the national ACLU.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.
November 06, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Morgan Miller, 601-354-3408, firstname.lastname@example.org
JACKSON, Miss – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi launched 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 Android app, which can be downloaded for free through the ACLU of Mississippi website, has three main functions and Know Your Rights information.Recordallows 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.Witnesssends out an alert when someone is stopped by police so that community members can move toward the location and document the interaction.Reportgives the app user the option to complete an incident report and send it directly to the ACLU of Mississippi for review.Know Your Rightsprovides an overview of what rights protect you when you are stopped by law enforcement officers.
“Knowledge, accountability and transparency are key to the strength of a system that ensures everyone is treated fairly. On a daily basis across Mississippi, citizens, especially young men of color, have close encounters with law enforcement officers in which their rights are trampled on. This app will equip and enable Mississippians with knowledge and the power to demand justice.” said Jennifer Riley-Collins, Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi.
ACLU affiliates in Missouri, Oregon and Nebraska are joining the ACLU of Mississippi in releasing the Mobile Justice app today. 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. An iPhone version of Mobile Justice will be released at a later time.
“This app will empower young people to protect their own rights and advocate for others when they are stopped by police,” said Rebecca Curry, ACLU of Mississippi Director of Advocacy and Policy.
Learn more about Mobile Justice Mississippi and download the app here. 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.