Hinds Seeks $6 Million Fines | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Hinds Seeks $6 Million Fines


Hinds County District 3 Supervisor Peggy Calhoun's motion to deny Milwaukee Electric forgiveness for taxes because of errors on the company's behalf passed today.

Lack of personnel and technology is preventing Hinds County from collecting over $6 million in outstanding fines, county supervisors learned at a work session yesterday. A discussion on improving the county's processing of warrants proposed by Supervisor Peggy Calhoun spawned an hour-long analysis of the county's system for tracking and collecting fines.

As of September 2009, Hinds County Justice Court had $6,181,829 in uncollected fines, $2.84 million of which was more than wo years past due.

"These go back decades," Deputy Chancery Clerk Greta Lovell said.

District 4 Constable Jon Lewis told supervisors that the county's five constables work nearly full time to serve civil process notices and have barely any time to pursue the county's many outstanding warrants.

"We could quit civil process today and go full time on outstanding warrants," Lewis said. "It's that many out there."

Part of the problem, Lewis said, is that each constable must also serve as a bailiff in county court for one day every week, further limiting their time for processing warrants.

"You're really going to come down to a personnel and technology issue," Lewis said.

Lewis added that the county jail does not systematically check incoming prisoners for outstanding fines they may owe. Moreover, the county's database of misdemeanor fines is not compatible with the National Crime Information Center database, meaning that deputies cannot easily check for outstanding fines when conducting background checks.

Major Pete Luke, director of fiscal affairs for the Hinds County Sheriff's Department, said that the county's technology shortcomings are especially evident when the county works with other jurisdictions on roadblocks and checkpoints.

"These guys are able to sit in their car or have a point-man in the car with a computer that can take these driver's licenses and run them so quick, find their violators, get them to the side and arrest them or whatever they're going to do," Luke said. "We still have to get on the radio ... calling it in on the radio trying to get the information."

County sheriff's deputies have to check NCIC and county databases separately, Luke said, but added that the Sheriff's Department is set to receive $500,000 from the federal government that will help upgrade its technology.

Calhoun called for a meeting of county officials, including Justice Court and Sheriff's Department representatives, to develop a better system for tracking fines.

"The most important thing is that if we get a system in place where we can start tracking, then we can't come back in ten years and say we have $6 million uncollected in fines," Calhoun said. "We need to get a system in place as soon as possible."

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Here we go runing to that socialist Federal Guvmnt again for a handout!


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