News Tag: Racial Justice

Legal Director Charles Irvin Talks Debtors' Prisons on Conversation Live

April 04, 2016

Host Cyrus Webb welcomed ACLU of MS Legal Director Charles Ivin to #ConversationsLIVE to discuss his work in bringing people together, what the ACLU of MS has been involved in and the groundbreaking win in Biloxi recently dealing with ‎debtors’ prison‬.

Hear his interview that aired on WYAD 94.1 here. Originally aired on April 3, 2016.

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Praise Biloxi Debtors' Prison Settlement

March 22, 2016

On March 18, Racial Justice Program Senior Attorney Nusrat Choudhury testified before the United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) for its briefing on “Municipal Policing and Courts: A Search for Justice or a Quest for Revenue.

Her testimony highlighted the problem of modern-day debtors’ prisons and the ACLU’s federal lawsuit Kennedy v. City of Biloxi, which challenged the illegal arrest and jailing of poor people in Biloxi, Mississippi, without a hearing or representation by counsel. During the briefing, commissioners generally praised the Biloxi settlement agreement, with Commissioner Kladney specifically noting that the reforms adopted in the agreement should be replicated elsewhere. 

Download the Hearing Statement here.

Nearly two centuries ago, the United States formally abolished the incarceration of people who failed to pay off debts. Yet, recent years have witnessed the rise of modern-day debtors' prisons—the arrest and jailing of poor people for failure to pay legal debts they can never hope to afford, through criminal justice procedures that violate their most basic rights.

The ACLU of Mississippi is working to expose and challenge modern-day debtors' prisons across the state. If you have experienced a debtors' prison situation, please let us know.

Confederate Emblems Reflect Hate

March 16, 2016

By Jennifer Riley-Collins, ACLU of MS Executive Director

Published in Clarion Ledger

Webster’s Dictionary defines heritage as “the traditions, achievements, beliefs, etc., that are part of the history of a group or nation.” A key part of the definition is that it indicates certain things are a part of the history. Studying history has value if the student is truly intent on learning from it.

As a military officer, I know the benefits our nation has gleaned from a review of past actions. We analyze actions and decide whether to either sustain what works or outline action plans for those areas where improvement is needed, and then we move forward. Clinging to history, particularly in editorialized and romanticized reflection, has no benefit. The cost is stagnation and an increased risk of repeating the same errors. A cost benefit analysis reveals that Mississippi simply cannot continue to afford the risks being taken by its leadership of continuing to remain a closed society.

As I have pondered the notions of Confederate heritage, Mississippi’s dogmatic stance relative to the Confederate emblem in our state flag as measured against the backdrop of structural and institutional racism in our state, I am dismayed. My distress stems from the fact our state government has chosen divisiveness over inclusion, to be offensive rather than respectful, and to remain unpleasant instead of welcoming and accepting. These are mindsets that manifest in our state always being last.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, while not a partner in the litigation recently filed before the court, applauds attorney Carlos Moore for taking up the fight. The ACLU of Mississippi believes that clinging to emblems and ideologies of the Confederacy are not reflective of the diversity of our state and are more than “unpleasant and complicated.” In fact, they are not complicated at all.  Instead, they are simple-minded indicators of racial hatred that signify a defiance against equality and a refusal to fairly administer justice with no regard to the harm inflicted on the citizens of this state or the state’s economy.

Individuals maintain a right to express themselves individually and on their private property.  Government speech, however, does not have the same right. It is time Mississippi’s government embraces the fact that Confederate emblems are not appropriate for today’s government to display nor is a history that fought to treat fellow human beings a chattel one we should embrace. As a soldier, I salute all who have fallen on battlefields, but our state capital and our classrooms should not perpetuate reenactment of that which is reprehensible.

As we reflect on history, let us be reminded as stated by Thomas Jefferson that “rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”

The ACLU of Mississippi will not be deterred in its mission to work tirelessly in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the Constitution’s promise of liberty for everyone.  We will make Mississippi better.

Image Source: supertalk.fm

Criminal Justice Reforms

February 17, 2016

 

Published in The Opinion Pages of the New York Times

To the Editor:

To Convict, Prove a Guilty Mind,” by Gideon Yaffe (Op-Ed, Feb. 12), highlights a tiny element of proposed criminal justice reforms, the reform of “mens rea” provisions. These plans, if implemented, would require prosecutors to prove that a defendant was aware of the illegal nature of his or her actions and intended to cause them. Proving such intent would be nearly impossible for many financial, environmental and regulatory crimes but relatively simple for drug and property crimes.

The reality is that at present, we know little about how this reform would affect our laws. What we do know is that its passage will do little to help the vast majority of the 2.2 million people behind bars in America and those soon to be incarcerated.

Republican lawmakers who insist on making this issue a quid pro quo are likely doing so not out of concern for the lives, families and communities torn apart by our broken system, but rather to please white-collar and corporate polluter interests who stand to gain the most.

Advocates of all political persuasions working to bring meaningful criminal justice reform would do well to keep our eyes on the prize of getting meaningful legislation passed and not let mens rea become the poison pill for the solutions our country so desperately needs.

ANTHONY D. ROMERO, Executive Director

American Civil Liberties Union

Why did Mississippi police release two versions of fatal shooting report?

February 09, 2016

By  in Oxford, Mississippi

Since 26-year-old Ricky Ball was shot and killed by police in October, the black community in Columbus, Mississippi, has grappled with questions that don’t have clear answers.

Why did police shoot Ball that night? Why did a string of police officials resign in the months that followed? And why did police claim Ball stole a gun from a police officer’s home only after his death?

Attempts to obtain police documents about the case have raised a new question: why did police release two different versions of events from the shooting?

Documents obtained by the Guardian show police altered a document labeled “uniform incident report” in Ball’s death. An initial version published by the Commercial Dispatch said an officer “tased” Ball before he fled. A new version of the incident report released to the Guardian does not include any mention of Taser use.

“One of these two reports is not true,” said Philip Broadhead, director of the criminal appeals clinic at the University of Mississippi law school. Broadhead said he’s never seen an incident report altered the way the document was in this case. “For police officers to offer up this type of information in the form of an incident report as sworn law officers … It’s a violation of their oath.”

City attorney Jeff Turnage said in an email the “documents created after the incident clearly were not incident reports, though that was the caption at the top”. He said “the city was not going to produce those because they were investigative in nature and exempt from production.”

An incident report is an official piece of evidence in the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation’s ongoing inquiry. It could also be used in a grand jury proceeding for officer Canyon Boykin.

Community members have held marches, vigils and launched a website seeking justice in Ball’s name in a case they have flagged as suspicious since it happened on 16 October. Ball was shot by Boykin after he and two other officers stopped a Mercury Grand Marquis in which Ball was the passenger. Ball jumped out of the car and fled. A coroner at the Baptist Memorial hospital declared Ball dead from a loss of blood at 11.12 pm.

But the details are hotly disputed.

Photograph: Courtesy of the Ball family
 
The Columbus police department contends that Ball fled the scene of the crime and evaded police officials for 20 minutes. When the K-9 unit found Ball, the police say he possessed narcotics and a stolen handgun. He was stabilized at the scene and then died at the hospital.

According to Kamal Karriem, former city councilman and community leader, many members of the black community believe police fired shots without justifiable cause and planted the gun on Ball’s body.

That alternative theory is the basis for a website, Justice For Ricky Ball, which has been meticulously documenting the twists and turns of the case over the past four months. It has also served as a sounding board for members of the community who feel ignored by the city government and local media.

“Ricky didn’t deal with guns,” said Ernesto Ball, uncle of Ricky and organizer of the vigil and march. “That’s one thing he never dealt with. He never owned a gun. He never dealt with people that owned guns.”

Suspicion in Columbus grew as police did not release any information about the incident until five days after Ball’s death, and then only in small increments.

At a city council meeting on 20 October, former police chief Tony Carleton said the car was pulled over for a faulty tag light and a “lack of insurance”. He then said body camera footage existed, but that he had not reviewed it. This drew derisive heckling from citizens in attendance.

The next day Carleton said he viewed the footage on former councilman Karriem’s radio show, but would not elaborate.

On 28 October 2015 – almost two weeks after the shooting – the police department issued an incident report, its first official account of events, as well as a press release that stated that a handgun, marijuana, narcotics and a scale were found within arm’s reach of Ball’s body. The press release said the three officers failed to activate body cameras during the incident, and only one officer activated a camera after the shooting.

Police also said the handgun was stolen from the house of Columbus police officer Garrett Mittan, one of the first officers to arrive at the scene.

The very same day, police issued two reports for alleged burglaries at officer Mittan’s house. Although one alleged burglary occurred more than a year earlier, in September 2014, and the other occurred several months earlier in August 2015, police did not report them until after Ball’s death.

The September 2014 report claims that the robbery occurred while Mittan was at work. But a police schedule obtained by the Guardian says he was not at work that day.

In the days that followed, there were a string of departures in the police department. First, the city fired Boykin, the officer who shot Ball, for unrelated reasons. The department said Boykin violated department policies by using derogatory language on Instagram, and allowing his girlfriend to ride in his patrol car.

The day after that, the chief of police, Carleton, resigned. He took a position as a training officer with the the police department in Oxford, Mississippi. The voluntary demotion raised eyebrows.

The assistant police chief Tony McCoy and narcotics officer Joseph Strevel also resigned before the end of 2015.

In January, the Guardian requested a copy of the incident report and received one that looked different from the earlier version published in the Commercial Dispatch, omitting a report that police “tased” the suspect.

Turnage claims that the second version of the incident report was given to the Guardian erroneously. He said in a follow-up email: “You can very well take my word as the City Attorney for Columbus that the incident report that says Boykin tased Mr Ball is the ONLY official incident report.”

The Columbus district attorney chose not to comment on a pending investigation.

Columbus police use the Taser X26, which stores data on an electronic control device). So if police did use a stun gun, it should be impossible to alter or delete this information.

Broadhead was alarmed by the two copies of the incident report, and said the altered incident report further discredits the police department’s account. Typically, he said, if police receive new information, they would indicate that the report had been changed. They would not, however, simply replace an old report with a new one.

“The series of events are not the same,” he said. “For this incident report to bear the same serial number … I’ve seen police reports supplemented. But I’ve never seen one that’s completely substituted.”

Blake Feldman, advocacy coordinator at the ACLU of Mississippi, says that the credibility of the document has been compromised.

An incident report is considered to be archival evidence and most police departments do not allow them to be altered, but the Columbus department has no standard operating procedure for them.

According to Broadhead: “For a city not to have a written policy concerning incident reports, that’s very unusual. But unfortunately it’s very common. Because if you don’t have a stated policy then you can’t be called for not following your stated policy.”

“When police make up rules as they go along,” former councilman Karriem said, “it creates blatant mistrust between the police and the communities that they are policing.”

The ACLU believes the state’s body camera policy is to blame.

“The circumstances of this incident, based on the information available, understandably invite suspicion of the officer’s version of events,” Feldman said. “Had audio and video been recorded from the time Boykin initiated the traffic stop, we wouldn’t be wondering if evidence was planted or whether a Taser was used. We wouldn’t be wondering why another young black man was fatally shot by a law enforcement officer.”

Click here to see copies of the Incident Report.

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ACLU-MS Comment on Jail Death of Rexdale Henry in Neshoba County

July 30, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Charles Irvin, 601.354.3408, cirvin@aclu-ms.org; Jennifer Riley-Collins, 601.354.3408, jriley-collins@aclu-ms.org

JACKSON, Miss – The following is a statement from American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi legal director, Charles Irvin, on the death of Choctaw activist Rexdale Henry in the Neshoba County Jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi on July 14, 2015:

“The ACLU of Mississippi would like to extend our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Rexdale Henry. Unfortunately, this case is not an isolated incident. Far too many citizens die every year in police encounters and many more are seriously injured. People of color are disproportionately affected at the hands of law enforcement and the increase in suspicious deaths has to stop.

“We support the Henry family and call for complete police transparency and a thorough independent investigation into the death of Rexdale Henry. We will continue to monitor the progress of the investigation. We encourage law enforcement to respect the First Amendment rights of citizens to peacefully protest and assemble in response to this tragedy.”

ACLU of Mississippi Receives $1 Million from W.K. Kellogg Foundation

July 28, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Morgan Miller, 601-354-3408, mmiller@aclu-ms.org
Dana Terry, 769.230.2841, dterry@mscenterforjustice.org

JACKSON, Miss – The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi Foundation (ACLU-MS) received a two-year one million dollar grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to address excessive discipline in schools and disparate punishment of young men of color by assessing current practices and developing a statewide model of fair school discipline practices fostering conditions for success. This project aims to dismantle the systems of structural and institutional racism and bias by identifying the structures that perpetuate the current practice of disparate implementation of discipline and engage these systems to create positive and supportive institutions and pathways for young men of color.

“This generous grant will allow us to develop and establish a community based model systems approach to address school discipline and criminalization of young men of color,” said Jennifer Riley-Collins, Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi.

Kimberly Merchant, Director of Educational Opportunities of the Mississippi Center for Justice stated “We are excited about our partnership with the Sunflower County Consolidated School District (SCCSD) and the SCCSD P-16 Parental Engagement Council. Together we will connect YMOC to systems, institutions and pathways designed to help young men succeed.” 

The partnership aims to develop a statewide uniform disciplinary policy that will reduce disciplinary rates; increase the capacity of the SCCSD staff to provide additional support for positive behavior intervention and monitoring of discipline data and implementation of district policy; and increase the knowledge base and capacity of the SCCSD P-16 community engagement council.

Extreme and destructive approaches to school discipline have devastated the students and families of Mississippi, harmed its teachers, members of law enforcement, and community members, and caused profound damage to the economic health and well-being of the State at large. Mississippi’s Black students are hit the hardest by harsh discipline practices. Statewide, they are three times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than their White peers, with an even greater disparity in some school districts. There are no successful schools that suspend, expel, and refer large numbers of students to law enforcement. Yet, there are no statewide prescribed standards for school discipline that ensure that the codes of student conduct in Mississippi’s school districts meet basic standards of fairness and common sense. Such harsh and extreme punishment works at cross-purposes with the State’s school improvement efforts and educators’ efforts to promote teaching and learning in healthy and productive ways.

This system change approach will engage the key stakeholders in the educational, law enforcement, judicial, community and media systems.  It will provide a model for Mississippi to promote policies that create effective schools, stronger communities, and fiscal health.

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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 Mississippi Center for Justice

The Mississippi Center for Justice is a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice. Supported and staffed by attorneys, community leaders and volunteers, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.

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.

OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM ACLU-MS ON CHOKING DEATH OF JONATHAN SANDERS

July 16, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:    Charles Irvin, ACLU of Mississippi, 601.354.3408, cirvin@aclu-ms.org; Jennifer Riley-Collins, ACLU of Mississippi, 601.354.3408. jriley-collins@aclu-ms.org

JACKSON, Miss - The ACLU-MS would like to extend our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Jonathan Sanders. Unfortunately this case is not an isolated incident. Far too many Black men die every year in police encounters, and many more are seriously injured. People of color are disproportionately affected by excessive use of force at the hands of the police.

At this time we join the community in Stonewall, Mississippi  in noting the importance of increased training for police on excessive use of force and transparency in police practices, especially in regards to interactions with communities of color.

We support the Sanders family and call for complete police transparency and a thorough independent investigation into the death of Johnathan Sanders.  We expect that in the aftermath of this horrible injustice, local law enforcement will fully respect the rights of the community to engage in peaceful assembly, prayer, and protest as they mourn this loss.

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.

 

2015 Legislative Tracking: Criminal Justice Reform

May 01, 2015

Oppose


HB180 - For those sentenced to the death penalty, this bill reduces the time that a person has to file an appeal from 3 years to 1 year. 

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS opposes HB180 as it deprives a citizen of the meaningful due process rights guaranteed by the constitution. No person should be deprived of life or liberty without significant safeguards. Additionally, to shorten the appeals process for people on death row would dramatically increase the risk of executing an innocent person.


HB1271 - Allows juvenile offenders to be sentenced to life without parole at the discretion of the judge.

Status: Died in Committee

We oppose HB1271 because there is a global consensus that children cannot be held to the same standards of responsibility as adults and recognition that children are entitled to special protection and treatment. There are fundamental differences between youths and adults. Youth have greater potential to become rehabilitated. Additionally, the cost to the state of Mississippi to incarcerate juvenile offenders for a lifetime is significant.


HB541 - Requires on-duty policemen to wear video cameras with audio, or be subject to fines.

Status: Died in Committee

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 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. We oppose HB541 because it lacks any law enforcement guidelines or limitations for when police must record encounters, who can access to such footage, nor does it provide privacy protections for those recorded.


HB256 - Enhances penalties for burglary offenses.

Status: Died in Committee

We oppose HB256 because enhancing the penalty prescribed for a non-violent offense such as burglary simply aggravates Mississippi's prison overcrowding issues. We need restorative justice, not policies meant to inflict further punishment and wholesale retribution.


HB172, HB1298 - Adds to the list of capital murder offenses, including "the killing of a utility worker" and “the killing of a uniformed security guard.”

Status: HB172 Signed by Governor into law. HB1298 Died in Committee

The ACLU believes that the death penalty inherently violates the Constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment as well as the right to fair treatment under the law. This bill adds to the list of crimes for which this unmerited penalty can be imposed without a reason of intent.


Support


HB173 - To “Ban the Box” by prohibiting employers from inquiring orally or in writing regarding a person’s criminal history, unless they are disqualified by law or if a required bond cannot be obtained.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports HB173 because it breaks down the barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals. Employers should choose their best candidates based on job skills and qualifications, not past convictions.


SB2568 - Requires that, prior to being detained, a school age child that has been referred to youth court by a school official must receive a juvenile delinquency risk assessment. Low-risk children will be sent to alternative school instead of a juvenile facility.

Status: Died in Committee

We support SB2568 because it proposes to evaluate each child on a case by case basis to determine their risk of recidivism before they enter the youth court system. Incarceration in any form should always be the last option when it comes to rehabilitating children.


HB1350 - At youth court, places limitations on the use of incriminating information obtained from a juvenile during a prior screening or assessment.

Status: Died in Committee

We support HB1350 becuase it protects the rights of children as they navigate the juvenile justice system. The bill takes into account that kids are often more susceptible to intimidation and pressure during conversations with authority figures. Protecting speech made during screenings and assessments allows a young person to speak honestly without fear of consequence.


HB1279 - Requires police officers assigned to patrol duties to wear body cameras.

Status: Died in Committee

We support HB1279. Body-worn cameras are a win-win, helping to protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time guarding against false accusations of abuse. Considering that many law enforcement agencies across the state are moving to independently adopt body-worn cameras for patrol officers as part of a national trend, we hope that the legislature will enact regulations to govern use of the devices that will both ensure consistent use of the devices and protect the privacy of citizens. This bill contains such clear guidelines.


HB269 - Makes it legal for people to record law enforcement officers, firefighter's and conservation officers in the performance of their duties.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports HB269 because it codifies a citizen's 1st Amendment right to record police officers. Taking photographs and videos of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is your constitutional right. That includes police and other government officials carrying out their duties.


HB235HB1291HB566SB2050 and SB2045 - Expands opportunities for expunction of a criminal record.

Status: HB235, HB1291, HB566, SB2050 & SB2045 Died in Committee

We support legislation which removes barriers to opportunity and which furthers restorative justice. The expunction of a criminal record can make a big difference in an individual’s future success.


SB2051 - Revises the sentencing of habitual felons, requiring that they be both sentenced to and served separate terms for prior convictions.

Status: Died in Committtee

We support legislation which removes barriers to opportunity and which furthers restorative justice. This bill would also promote consistency in the language between the statutes that govern habitual sentencing for violent and nonviolent offenses.


HB478SB2332 - Training for School Resource Officers.

Status: HB478 Died in Committee; SB2332 Dead.

The ACLU of MS supports HB478 and 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.


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.”

Status: Signed by Governor into law.

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.

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