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Judges Speak Out at County Fair

If you missed the Neshoba County Fair last month, you missed what is called, “Mississippi’s largest house party.” But among the exhibits and vendors, there was another interesting event, one of a more serious nature.

Some of our elected judges had an opportunity to speak out on issues that concern them about how the criminal justice system operates. For example, as reported in the Neshoba Democrat, Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon said the Department of Corrections was, “more than any other agency detrimental to circuit courts.” Pretty controversial stuff, but the Judge has a point.

When a person is convicted and sentenced, the assumption is they will serve out the time allotted – or at least some significant portion thereof. But Judge Gordon told how the DOC rules the roost when it comes to handling prisoners. They can be put on probation, violate that probation, and judges cannot revoke probation. The DOC can also release prisoners as it sees fit.

The Judge mentions in the article that of the 587 years in total prison time handed out (in the last decade) by him and a fellow judge, only 180 years has been served. Good news if you are a drug offender, but it makes a mockery of the judicial system when punishments are just estimates – and bad estimates at that.

A second judge who spoke, Judge Cotten, talked about his drug court and how people who weren’t criminal but just ill were doing well under that system. Typically, drug court participants don’t serve jail time if they can meet obligations to get treatment and agree to testing with other supervision added on. According to the article above, the drug court is a money saver as well, since it is funded by those who appear before it. Judge Cotten also said violent offenders aren’t allowed and the police and prosecutors have a say in who is eligible.

It’s always worthwhile to hear from our judiciary, and these talks were no exception. If we are going to fix our prison system, it will take input from those on the front lines.


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