Flanked by police and civil leaders of Jackson, Miss., U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst spent a press conference arguing for draconian acts of "justice" to be inflicted on Jackson's people—primarily her poor, disenfranchised and minority residents.
Photo by Imani Khayyam.
Flanked by police and civil leaders of Jackson, Miss., U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst spent a press conference arguing for draconian acts of "justice" to be inflicted on Jackson's people—primarily her poor, disenfranchised and minority residents. He outlined a "crime-fighting" plan for federal, state, and local officials to team up against those accused of crime, locking them up without bail, refusing to negotiate any plea bargains and sending them to federal prisons in other states. Of course, the plan was not so explicitly stated. Instead, it was couched in terms of "protecting the community," and "helping the people."
Project EJECT is apparently simple: "If you violate our laws, you will be ejected from our community." While the initiative is purportedly supposed to only combat violence, Hurst's choice of words are telling: Anyone accused of violating "laws" will result in ejection, not only those accused of "commit[ing] violence." How long before any and every accusation is worthy of the Project EJECT strategy?
The initiative is not original, and it is not a novel way to combat violence. It is the failed "war on drugs"; it is New York's unconstitutional "Stop and Frisk" program and all other "tough on crime" crusades. Like all of them, it will result in collateral damage to society's most vulnerable.
In response to crime rates (which according to Pew Research are at all-time average lows), law enforcement and the State demand more power. The terrified people hand over power that should be theirs. The courts yield civil rights and protections to law enforcement. Time passes, but crime never ends despite overflowing court dockets. The people see no true change, but law enforcement showboats about arrest rates. The accused waste away in overcrowded jails, but the private-prison industry continues to profit. The convicted are forever separated from their families, who ultimately are their best hope for rehabilitation.
Project EJECT is an attack on the people under the guise of protecting them. Hurst scornfully attacks the idea of bail for the accused, ignoring that it is a constitutionally guaranteed right. He threatens future defendants in his courtroom with a refusal to work out plea deals, disregarding that the entire purpose of the plea deal is a fair result for each individual defendant. The threat of sending those convicted of a crime to prisons outside of Mississippi is an insult to the families of the accused.
In a separate op-ed, Hurst paid lip service to the reality that "we can't arrest our way out of crime" and suggests possible alternatives to incarceration. This is not the first time we've heard this. Every time the government launches a new anti-crime initiative, it's sold to the public as an alternative to the "old way." Yet every time said initiative is enacted and time moves on, the reality comes to light: This is no alternative. The jails are still full. The U.S. still has the world's largest prison population, with Mississippi having one of the highest incarceration rates. The new Jim Crow continues its bloody work.
Jackson, do not fall for this. Yes, crime is awful. People are grieving for those whom violence has taken from them. No one disputes that there is work to be done, but fighting violence with violence, eviscerating the rights of the people, taking power from the people and filling the prisons to the profit of capitalists will never work.
Demand real solutions. Attack the root causes of crime: extreme poverty; drug addiction; poor mental health; a lack of resources for quality education; the lack of jobs and affordable housing; a corrupt criminal "justice" system; and an economic system that benefits only the owners of capital, those with financial power and those who carry the banner of white supremacy.
Crime in Jackson is not unassailable, but we do not stop it with draconian initiatives; we stop it by building a better city. We beat it with quality health care for the addict, the uninsured, the poor, for everyone to ensure society cares for the needy rather than cast them out. We prevent crime by investing in education. We reduce crime by overturning and rebuilding the system, which entraps young people of Jackson into cyclical poverty and want. Project EJECT wants to fight fire with fire. The people of Jackson must reject this useless plan, and work together to enact real and lasting solutions to help their city.
Criminal defense attorney Andrew J. Williams Esq., lives and practices in his adopted home of Mississippi. This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the JFP.