Charlette Oswalt | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Charlette Oswalt

Photo by Imani Khayyam.

Charlette Oswalt wants to shake up Hinds County leadership as the first woman elected as sheriff. She also says she's shaking up the four-person race for the county's top cop by announcing her top deputy.

At a news conference in downtown Jackson, Oswalt said 46-year-old Marlow Stewart would be her undersheriff if Oswalt, a Republican, beats Democrat Victor Mason and two independent candidates, Les Tannehill and Reginald Thompson.

Oswalt considers it an act of transparency in a race where no other candidate has publicly named their No. 2.

"Hinds County citizens need to know how prepared the candidates are for this job so they plan to address the critical issues that exist in our county," said Oswalt, adding that combined, she and Stewart have 47 years of law enforcement experience.

Oswalt, 49, was born in south Jackson and graduated from Mississippi College. She worked as a Hinds County deputy, where she oversaw inmate classification at the county jail, and at the Mississippi Department of Corrections as probation and patrol officer. Stewart, a graduate of Alcorn State University, is also a former probation officer for MDOC and a jailer for the Madison County Sheriff's office.

Calling the Hinds County jail, "out of control," Oswalt pointed to findings of a U.S. Justice Department report and draft consent decree, with which the incoming sheriff, who manages the jail, will be responsible for compliance.

Some of her plans include returning deputy patrols to rural parts of the county. Current Sheriff Tyrone Lewis has beefed up patrols in parts of the City of Jackson, which has drawn criticism from some residents in the county.

Oswalt said she would also like to examine how prisoners are classified based on their needs and risk level. In addition, she wants to work with the county courts to see why some people are sometimes held past their release dates, which the DOJ pointed out in its report.

She notes that inmates at the Raymond Detention Center are pre-trial detainees and that no prisoner should leave confinement worse off than when they were first processed. But Oswalt said she doesn't think of possibly coming in under a consent decree as a problem, however.

"I look at it as a puzzle that needs to be sorted out," she said.

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