The following is a verbatim press release from the American Civil Liberties Union.
ATLANTA – The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal lawsuit challenging debt collection practices that have resulted in the jailing of people simply because they are poor. The case was brought on behalf of Kevin Thompson, a black teenager in DeKalb County, Georgia, who was jailed because he could not afford to pay court fines and probation company fees stemming from a traffic ticket.
"Being poor is not a crime. Yet across the county, the freedom of too many people unfairly rests on their ability to pay traffic fines and fees they cannot afford," said Nusrat Choudhury, an attorney with the ACLU's Racial Justice Program. "We seek to dismantle this two-tiered system of justice that punishes the poorest among us, disproportionately people of color, more harshly than those with means."
The ACLU charges that DeKalb County and for-profit Judicial Correction Services Inc. (JCS) teamed up to engage in a coercive debt collection scheme that focuses on revenue generation at the expense of protecting poor people's rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled more than 30 years ago that locking people up merely because they cannot afford to pay court fines is contrary to American values of fairness and equality embedded in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The court made clear that judges cannot jail someone for failure to pay without first considering their ability to pay, efforts to acquire money, and alternatives to incarceration.
No such consideration was given to Thompson, who was locked up for five days because he could not afford to pay $838 in fines and fees to the county and JCS – despite the fact that he tried his best to make payments. The lawsuit charges that Thompson's constitutional rights to an indigency hearing and to counsel were violated by DeKalb County, JCS, and the chief judge of the local court that sentenced him to jail.
"What happened to me, and others like me who try their best to pay fines and fees but fall short, is unfair and wrong," said Thompson. "I hope this lawsuit will help prevent other people from being jailed just because they are poor."
These debt collection practices have had a devastating impact on people of color in the Atlanta metropolitan area. While blacks make up 54 percent of the DeKalb County population, nearly all probationers jailed by the DeKalb County Recorders Court for failure to pay are black – a pattern replicated by other Georgia courts.
"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 communities of color," said Choudhury.
The case, Thompson v. DeKalb County, was filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. It names DeKalb County, Chief Judge Nelly Withers of the DeKalb County Recorders Court, and Judicial Correction Services Inc. as defendants. Rogers & Hardin LLP, the ACLU of Georgia, and Southern Center for ...
As of now, the LGBT community is not protected in Mississippi's hate crime law. But Rep. Deborah Dixon, D-Raymond, authored a bill that could change that.
House Bill 534 would amend the constitution to increase the penalties for crimes committed against people because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. The law currently defines a hate crime as a crime committed against a person because of their race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion or national origin.
HB 534 has been referred to the Judiciary B House Committee, chaired by Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton.
While his committee has a meeting tomorrow morning, Gipson told the Jackson Free Press he has not looked at HB 534 yet.
A previously failed proposal that aims to abolish abortion has resurfaced this legislative session.
State Rep. Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie, introduced a so-called Personhood bill in the form House Bill 1309, which would amend the state constitution to define a person as beginning at the moment of conception.
Boyd's bill number is reminiscent of a bill passed in 2012, House Bill 1390, which required physicians at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges to nearby hospitals.
Critics of Boyd's bill point to the failure to achieve a Personhood law through a statewide ballot initiative in 2011. During that drive, a proposed Personhood amendment to the state constitution failed to garner enough votes to become law. Later, in 2013, a group attempted to get the measure back on the ballot but missed a key deadline. Subsequent Personhood bills in the Legislature have also failed to gain traction.
Personhood has gained national attention not only because it would outlaw abortion in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, but because of the law's unintended consequences. Because such a law would also define a fertilized egg as a person, it could bring to question the legality of birth control pills, Plan B, and some methods of in-vitro fertilization, reproductive-justice advocates say.
The 2012 Mississippi admitting privileges law would have closed the last abortion clinic in the state, Jackson Women's Health Organization, because nearby hospitals refused to grant privileges to them. But the clinic fought the law, which resulted in a U.S. District Court striking it down. A federal appeals court upheld the decision and Mississippi's attorneys have not announced whether the state would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Arriving fashionably late, the boys stood in the parking lot by a jeep with the infamous snake flag draped over the windshield and expressed their disapproval of the groups desire to form the GSA at BHS.
LGBT activists will hold a demonstration tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. to oppose what they call discrimination against a group of students who wanted to create a gay-straight alliance at Brandon High School.
Instead of simply rejecting the students' request to form the group, Rankin County School District Superintendent Lynn Weathersby took a more nuanced approach. He passed a new requirement for students attempting to form or join a club: their parent's signature.
Brandon High School tenth-grader Michelle Brown said the new rule would make it near impossible for some students to participate in the club.
"Some parents might be homophobic or some kids might not have come out to their parents yet. So it would be really hard for them to ask their parents, 'Hey, can I go to this club at school?' without their parents questioning them," Brown said.
Brown said she thinks the requirement specifically targets the gay-straight alliance. "It wasn't put in place until we tried to have our club," Brown said.
A Facebook page created for the event states the protest will be held at the Rankin County School District's offices.
"Based on federal law, this is discriminatory in nature. Please join us in protesting an unlawful and bigoted change to their policy," the page reads.
The reaction that Brown said she has witnessed to attempts at creating a gay-straight alliance—which included students using slurs for the LGBT community—illustrates the need for groups like these.
"Going day after day ... (LGBT students) go through a lot of stuff," Brown said. "They're stuck in the shadows and they need to (be able to) come out."
On the heels of last year’s move to add “In God We Trust” to the state seal, there’s now a push to make the Holy Bible our official state book. Still, there might be some out there who don’t understand how much Mississippi truly loves God and his son Jesus Christ. Legality aside, adopting these official symbols would really drive the point for any poor soul still unsure where our state’s religious loyalties lie:
• State fruit tree: Apple from the Tree of Good and Evil
• State spice formation: Pillar of salt
• State boat: The ark
• State allegory: David vs. Goliath
• State tower: Babel
• State shrub: Burning bush
• State geologic formation: Stone tablets
• State garment: The coat of many colors
• State mode of transport: Chariot of Fire
• State ungulate: Lamb of God
• State meal: Loaves and Fishes
• State miracle: Turning water to (muscadine) wine
• State method of execution: Crucifixion
• State shoe: Those groovy sandals that Jesus wore
• State religion: Christianity. Duh.
Results from a poll conducted by the polling center at Jackson State University's Institute of Government suggest that public opinion regarding the quality of k-12 public schools locally and nation-wide is not too hot. Less than half of Mississippians, for example, said schools in the state are adequately funded, while almost 70 percent agreed better schools are generally those that are better funded.
Giving credence to the importance of successful public schools, 86 percent of Mississippians agreed that the better the education a state has, the better its economy will be.
A JSU press release stated:
The Polling Center at Jackson State University’s Institute of Government has issued its second local and national poll, this one focused on education.
A national survey of 908 adults, the poll on public education quality, programming, testing and funding was conducted Nov. 24 to Dec. 5, 2014.
Among its findings:
- Most Americans say public schools are significantly underfunded
- Majorities of Americans are willing to pay more taxes to better fund public schools
- A large percentage of Americans see public school buildings as “dangerously neglected”
In Mississippi, strong majorities surveyed (67.3%) believe that public schools are significantly (32.7%) or somewhat (34.5%) underfunded.
Moreover, in Mississippi:
- Less than half (45.9%) of Mississippians agreed that their own state adequately funds public schools;
- A majority is willing to pay somewhat more in taxes to better fund public schools – 63.7%;
- Only 27.4% agreed that public schools are funded equitably or evenly across jurisdictions;
- A strong majority (69.8%) agreed that good performing schools are generally better funded;
- A large majority (86.1%) agreed that the better public schools do, the better the economy does;
- A majority (63.3%) agreed that they seek out and support candidates who advocate for increased public school funding.
Mississippians surveyed provided only a passing grade for the quality of public education in the United States today. While 56.7% indicated the quality of public education was very good (6.7%) or good (49.8%), two-fifths, 39.7% suggested the quality was poor (33.7%) or very poor (6.0%).
Describing the quality of education in their own communities, Mississippians provided only a somewhat higher grade than they did for public schools nationally. More than one-half (58.9%) indicated the quality of education in their own community was very good (13.1%) or good (45.6%). Nearly one-third (37.6%) indicated poor (25.8%) or very poor (11.7%).
When schools are considered or declared “failing,” most Mississippians hold the local school districts and school administrators responsible – 66.2% and 55.2% respectively. Fewer hold the teachers and the state responsible – 48.0% and 34.5% respectively. Some hold the students and funding or funders responsible – 36.7% and 22.1% respectively.
Three-fifths of Mississippians polled (60.1%) indicated they would recommend graduation rates be used to measure school success. A similar percentage (69.8%) suggested student test scores be used as a metric. Fewer suggested teacher qualification and accomplishments or scholarships awarded – 41.6% and 20.6% respectively be used.
Educational infrastructure is in poor ...
Followers of Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber's social media accounts are no doubt familiar with his signature doodles and inspirational messages (and, oh, the subtweets!), scrawled onto disposable serviettes.
Reads one mouth-wiping device, posted about a week ago:
If You Love -Right- Eventually, it will hurt
Just Ask Jesus #Love #Longsuffer #Bye2014
Well, now someone apparently with downtown ties is taking aim at Jackson's resident napkiphile with an anonymous campaign and Twitter account called Jackson Napkin.
"You know what doesn't fix a pothole? A napkin," the inaugural photo tweet, on Jan. 6, says.
The following day, Jan. 7, a series of Capitol Street-themed napkins seemed to criticize the pace of the ongoing two-waying project.
"Wow, it sure is taking a long time," says the thought bubble of one of the stick-figure drawings.
The Capitol Street project is scheduled to be complete at the end of February. It is unclear if that timetable will be met or who's responsible for the campaign.
A #napkin seeking comment from the city's Department of Absorbency was not immediately Instagrammed.
Republican leaders say they don't want to simply do away with Common Core academic standards—they want higher, better standards.
“I don't take a political position on this. I take a personal position on this,” Gov. Phil Bryant said, echoing other lawmakers at the 'Stop Common Core' rally today at the Capitol that Common Core hurts Mississippi schoolchildren.
Bryant spoke about the national governors meeting he attended in which “they” said that Common Core was designed by national governors. “Well I wasn’t in the room when it happened,” Bryant joked.
It is the idea that these standards are a government overreach that drives the anti-Common Core movement. “We’re not here today to say take away those academic challenges. We’re here to say make them better but take them away from the control of the federal government,” Bryant said.
The speakers also repeated one point so firmly you might think they were trying to convince themselves: they’re “not attacking anyone.”
During his speech, Bryant recalled a conversation he had with another governor whom he described as “on the other end of the political spectrum,” but who also does not like Common Core. The governor told Bryant, “This is something I agree on,” Bryant said.
“He said, ‘My teachers union don’t like it,’ and I said, ‘Well bless your heart for that,’” Bryant said smugly while the crowd erupted in laughter.
Apparently, Common Core standards, adopted by 46 state including the ones most thriving in education, are not high enough for Mississippi, which consistently rates at the bottom in education categories.
While none of the politicians who spoke at the rally—including Bryant, Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula and Sen. Phillip Gandy, R-Waynesboro—spoke in detail about how the new standards would be crafted, Bryant assured it could be done without spending much money.
“Angela Hill could do a pretty good job at that and it wouldn’t cost us $8.6 million,” Bryant said of creating educational standards.
Hill told the group that even if the state does not develop new academic standards, it could adopt standards from other states, which, she said, would be free.
“It is not brain surgery. I can’t do brain surgery but I can write standards,” said the former science teacher.
Watson spoke to the group, challenging legislators and voters not to give up on the fight for higher standards, “because that’s what our children deserve.”
“We're not here to attack anybody, but we're here to fight,” Watson said.
For two big upcoming home games, Jackson State is cutting ticket prices for Jackson Public Schools employees and students as well as other JSU b-ball fans.
The Division of Athletics will offer discounted general admission ticket prices of $5 for JPS employees and students for the 5:30 p.m. Jan. 10 game with Alcorn State University and the 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12 game with Southern University.
General admission for the games will be $7; regular ticket prices are $15. Children age 5 and under get in free.
Mississippi State's Josh Robinson told ESPN he's entering the 2015 NFL draft.
Janet Barreto, who once on the U.S. Marshals’ list of most wanted fugitives, died at Central Mississippi Medical Center. She had been incarcerated at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections said Barreto, 43, died shortly after 9 a.m. today of natural causes.
Barreto's death follows that of Kenneth Davis, who was on death row at Mississippi State Penitentiary, convicted of killing an off-duty Jackson police officer in 1989.
Davis died Dec. 15.
MDOC information shows Davis was sentenced to death in March 1991 for fatally shooting Bobby Joe Biggert, who walked into a south Jackson pawn shop when Davis was robbing it. The Mississippi Supreme Court denied an ineffective assistance of counsel challenge from Davis in July 2004.
According to MDOC, Barreto pleaded guilty to six counts of child endangerment, three counts of child abuse, and one count of manslaughter and was sentenced to 25 years in prison earlier this year. Barreto had spent five years on the lam with her husband before marshals caught up with the couple in Oregon in August.
See, the way Thalia Mara Hall is set up....
Kevin Hart will perform in Jackson on Jan. 25.
Tickets went on sale today for the show, slated for Thalia Mara at 7 p.m.
One of the biggest-name stand-up comedians and actors in the business, Hart will appear in a film called "Top Five" directed by Chris Rock. Fellow professional funny people Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld and Whoopi Goldberg will also appear in the film. Hart will appear in three other comedies in 2015, including The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard, opposite Will Farrell and Ride Along 2, a sequel.
Other film credits include Little Fockers with Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller, Death at a Funeral, Fool’s Gold and The 40 Year Old Virgin.
A press release also states that Hart’s other television credits include, hosting BET’s classic stand-up comedy series Comic View: One Mic Stand, ABC’s The Big House, which he also executive produced and wrote, and recurring roles on Love, Inc, Barbershop, and Undeclared.
Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.
A Human Rights Campaign press release acknowledges the efforts from the Holly Springs Mayor and Board of Alderman to welcome its LGBT community. The release reads:
Jackson—Last night, the Holly Springs, Mississippi Mayor and Board of Aldermen passed a resolution recognizing the dignity and worth of all city residents - including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). The city joins eight other communities in the Magnolia State whose leaders have acknowledged and valued its LGBT residents.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Mississippi Director Rob Hill released the following statement in response to the city’s actions:
“We applaud the Mayor and Board of Aldermen for taking an active step to create a welcoming space for LGBT Mississippians who call Holly Springs home. Leadership requires courage and the board’s decision represents the true values of Mississippi. This is a clear example of elected officials putting the Golden Rule into action.”
During last night’s meeting, Alderman at Large Timothy Liddy stated the following:
“For the City of Holly Springs to attract good citizens, home owners, students, businesses, and employees, we need to stay competitive with other communities in Mississippi and throughout the nation. A Resolution Affirming the City of Holly Springs Commitment to Diversity is one step in achieving this goal.”
Announced in April 2014, HRC Mississippi is part of HRC’s Project One America, a lasting investment concentrated in the Deep South by making progress on three fronts--changing hearts and minds, advancing enduring legal protections, and building more inclusive institutions for LGBT people from the church pew to the workplace.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
Any football players looking for another chance to play the game? Here is your chance to make an impression on professional scouts.
It doesn't matter if you didn't play college ball or just played at the junior college level or in the SWAC or the Sun Belt or Conference USA or the SEC.
Grant Worsley, Owner and General Manager of the Jackson Showboats, with his Worsley Group has partnered with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League to host a free agent tryout on January 24, 2015.
The tryout will be held at Smith-Wills Stadium (1200 Lakeland Drive) at 1:30 pm. There is a $100, cash only, registration fee. This tryout will consist of non-padded combine testing drills and one-on-one drills.
Anyone wanting to participate needs to dress for weather conditions and to run. Other scouts for other teams could be in attendance, if possible.
To register by email, or for more information or any questions, email Danny McManus at email@example.com or Grant Worsley at 769-203-2108.
Tonight, the Jackson City Council is scheduled to discuss a date for a special election to replace former Ward 3 Councilwoman LaRita Cooper-Stokes, who will be heading to the county's judges' bench.
The Jackson Advocate, one of two local newspapers highlighting news of interest to the African-American community, reported that Cooper-Stokes' husband, Kenneth Stokes, will indeed run to recapture the Ward 3 seat he held until 2011.
There had been wide speculation that Kenny Stokes, who represents District 5 on the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, would run for his old seat after having his power on the board greatly reduced in the past year.
Stokes, whose mother recently passed away, told the Advocate that he wanted to keep the seat in the family because of such traditions in the near-west-side ward, such as the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. His mother blessed the decision before her death, he said.
"We've got to continue taking to the streets to encourage people to stop the violence. And it's not a little thing that they can't afford to to pay their water bills. Our people are struggling just to get by," Stokes told the Advocate.
With a Stokes get-out-the-vote machine that should be studied in political sciences, the announcement is likely to make Kenny Stokes the front-runner in the field.
Albert Wilson, who ran for the seat in 2013 and competed in the special election for mayor this year, reportedly already has campaign signs up.
Another question mark is Pam Greer, the founder of a nonprofit that promotes violence prevention and supports families of violent-crime victims. Greer also ran for the Ward 3 post in 2013 and has remained a vocal critic of city government on social media. She told the Jackson Free Press that is fasting and would make up her mind when the fast concludes.
Going back to the referendum on the 1-percent sales tax, 11 elections have taken place somewhere in the city of Jackson, since January 2013.
A mailer is going around northeast Jackson attempting to link Dorsey Carson, a Ward 1 Jackson City Council candidate, to President Barack Obama.
Obama, an African American Democrat, is very unpopular among Mississippi Republicans.
The mailer, reportedly produced by the Hinds County Republican Party, depicts a photoshopped Obama with his arm around Carson even though the color of the president's hands in the photo don't match.
The Ward 1 race concludes with a runoff between Carson and Republican investment manager Ashby Foote tomorrow, Dec. 16, and is officially nonpartisan. Carson is a Democrat who contributed to Obama's election campaign and ran for the state Legislature as a Democrat, both facts that the direct mailer point out.
The push card also claims that Carson "criticized Mississippi to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder" over the state's redistricting plan. In addition, the flyer purports that Carson donated $500 to former Congressman Travis Childers over Sen. Thad Cochran in the recent U.S. Senate race.
As expected, Ward 3 Councilwoman LaRita Cooper-Stokes last night tendered her resignation from the Jackson City Council to take a seat on the bench as a county judge.
Cooper-Stokes' departure makes the second mid-term resignation of a sitting council member in less than four months. In August, Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell left unexpectedly to move his family to Oxford. Whitwell's replacement will be determined by a runoff on Dec.16 between attorney Dorsey Carson and investment advisor Ashby Foote.
Now that Cooper-Stokes has officially vacated the seat, the currently five-member council will have to set a special election for Ward 3, which could happen as early as the next regular meeting on Tuesday Dec. 16, the day of the Ward 1 runoff.
Ward 3's special election could prove very entertaining.
Albert Wilson, who ran for the seat in 2013 and competed in the special election for mayor this year, reportedly already has campaign signs up.
Another question mark is Pam Greer, the founder of a nonprofit that promotes violence prevention and supports families of violent-crime victims. Greer also ran for the Ward 3 post in 2013 and has remained a vocal critic of city government on social media.
The most interesting possibility is that Cooper-Stokes' husband, Hinds County District 5 Supervisor Kenneth Stokes could seek his old seat. Stokes held the seat until he joined the county board in 2011; Cooper-Stokes replaced him in 2012 after a contentious special election that wound up in court. Stokes hasn't been very happy on the relatively quiet county board lately and could want to go back the higher profile city council.
Going back to the referendum on the 1-percent sales tax, 11 elections have taken place somewhere in the city of Jackson, since January 2013.
Mississippi U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, joined fellow black lawmakers in calling for in-depth hearings on the deaths of several African American men killed by police this year.
Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., and John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., ranking members of the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary, respectively, joined Thompson in asking for congressional hearings on the killings of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y.
In both those cases, local grand juries recently declined to indict the police officers who killed the men despite the presence of muddled evidence that a trial could illuminate. The non-indictments also sparked new waves of demonstrations across the country, including in Jackson.
“We firmly believe that events in Staten Island, New York, Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere have fractured the trust of Americans in the integrity of the criminal justice system,” the Congressmen wrote in a letter to the Republican chairmen of their respective committees.
“The federal government has a critical role to play in ensuring that all Americans are treated equally before the law, especially by their local police, and it is our responsibility to exercise oversight of the funding and resources that the Federal government allocates to these local jurisdictions. Hearings into these topics will be important early steps on the long road of healing across the country.”
Gov. Phil Bryant declared Dec. 5 to be Dr. Aaron Shirley Day in Mississippi in honor of the medical pioneer who passed away last week.
Shirley was born in Gluckstadt, but moved to Jackson at an early age. Shirley attended Lanier High School and graduated from Tougaloo College in 1955 and Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tenn., in 1959. He completed his residency in pediatric medicine at the University of Mississippi in 1965.
In 1970, Shirley founded the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center and, in 1997, the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center. Aaron also served as president of the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation. The Jackson Medical Mall was set up in an abandoned shopping center; the facility is a valuable asset in helping revitalize a disadvantaged area of Jackson. Shirley, in 2010, also launched a program to dispatch physicians to rural areas.
In addition to the proclamation, state Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, had also asked Gov. Bryant to order flags around the state lowered to half-mast in remembrance of Shirley but was told the custom is to lower flags only to honor fallen law enforcement and military personnel and elected officials.
Horhn called the denial disappointing and said the state's policy on when flags can be placed at half-mast may need to be clarified.
"I think he deserves that distinction," Horhn said of Dr. Shirley. " Aaron Shirley was one of the finest Mississippians this state ever produced."
Funeral services for Dr. Shirley take place Saturday Dec. 6 at the UMMC Conference Center at the Jackson Medical Mall at 11a.m.