Bryant forms public safety agenda

Gov. Phil Bryant speaks about his administration's and the Legislature's successes during his morning address at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013. The fair is a traditional gathering place for fairgoers, politicians, area residents, business leaders and voters. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Gov. Phil Bryant speaks about his administration’s and the Legislature’s successes during his morning address at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013. The fair is a traditional gathering place for fairgoers, politicians, area residents, business leaders and voters. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Gov. Phil Bryant said at last week’s Neshoba County Fair that his focus during the 2014 legislative session would be on public safety.

But that does not necessarily mean he is talking solely about tougher prison sentences and enhanced law enforcement efforts.

After his speech at the fair, Bryant told reporters that his public safety proposals for the 2014 session, which are still being developed, could include tougher sentences in some instances, but treatment instead of prison time in other instances.

The first-term Republican governor said often there is “a fine line for people needing treatment and people needing to go to prison.”

The governor, a former deputy sheriff, cited tougher sentences, specifically, for people involved in selling prescription drugs and selling and manufacturing crystal methamphetamine. But for people suffering from addiction, he said treatment might make more sense if no other law had been violated.

After the Legislature addressed economic development and jobs during his first year as governor in 2012 and education in 2013, Bryant said public safety is the next logical step. He said in some instances, such as in Jackson, he believes the high rate of crime is negatively affecting economic development.

During the 2013 session, House President Pro Tem Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, was successful in passing legislation to create a task force to look at the state’s sentencing laws and how they impact law enforcement and the Department of

Corrections. In some instances, officials say there are wide disparities among judicial districts in the sentence for the same crime.
Bryant said recommendations from the task force would affect what public safety issues are addressed during the 2014 session.

According to the legislation, the task force is supposed to look at “improving the relationship between the corrections system and the criminal justice system.” The goal is “to prevent, deter and reduce crime and violence, reduce recidivism, improve cost-effectiveness and ensure the interests of justice at every step of the criminal justice system.”

Snowden said he has had complaints from prosecutors and judges that the sentences imposed on criminals are dramatically reduced in some instances by the Department of Corrections. Snowden said he is not blaming Corrections because the

Legislature gives the agency the authority to reduce sentences in some instances – particularly to stay within its budget.

“This is not about being tough on crime,” Snowden said. “But judges and prosecutors ought to have a say. But obviously it must be tempered because Corrections must have a way to manage its population – to provide rewards and punishment.”

The 21-member task force includes Corrections officials, prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, legislators and others.

Bryant said he is not opposed to house arrest in some instances, especially for women who might be away from their children if incarcerated.

But he said, “We have to put some more money in the Department of Corrections” to provide the agency enough funds to ensure it has the ability to keep prisoners in custody. “Each year we have a tendency to underfund the Department of

Corrections … It is unfortunate, but Corrections is something we have to put money into.”

The governor also said funds will be needed in 2014 for a new Highway Patrol trooper class. And he also suggested creating a task force of state law enforcement to provide assistance to local communities when it is requested.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com

  • TrueMaroon5

    There it is, in the last paragraph. Bryant is gonna do whatever the Dept of Public Safety (highway patrol) wants b/c they escort him.
    This guy is a running joke, who probably has aspirations to run for president.

  • williambova

    “The governor, a former deputy sheriff”

    Thank you for saying that Mr. Harrison, because that is what the governor of this state is, a guy who is maybe, at best, qualified to perhaps serve jail prisoners lunch in the commons. 9+ % state unemployment, crumbling roads and infrastructure, state employees who have zero motivation left after 7 years with no raise, and a goofy clown-like governor who walks around all day huffing and puffing about nonsense wearing fake cowboy boots thinking he is the star of a wild west movie taking place in Mississippi. What a joke, unfortunately for Mississippi it is reality…

  • barney fife

    Imagine the savings to the legal community if all the laws regarding possession, sale and use of marijuana (only) were taken off the table.
    Imagine the tax revenues from legalized marijuana sales. Again, no other substances, marijuana only.

    • Tupelo_Guy

      I agree…legalize cannabis for medical and recreational. Those tax dollars would be going to our highways, education and to pay off our debt. More jobs would be created.

    • Winston Smith

      Not only would it generate revenue, it’d also take all that revenue away from criminal organizations like the Mexican drug cartels, and free up our drug enforcement agents to go after harder more dangerous drugs. I don’t smoke pot, but I think the war on drugs has done with pot what prohibition did to alcohol in the roaring 20′s, that is, create a huge criminal organization to feed a vice that a large part of the public shared.

  • TWBDB

    Check the laws: make sure violent offenders fill those jail cells before you fill them up with addicts.

  • TrueMaroon5

    But, he’ll get voted in for a second term b/c: (1) he’ll have the “I” beside his name (incumbent) and (2) he’ll also have the “R”. Which then means it’ll be Tate Reeves “turn” after that. We know how it works here in Mississippi.

    • countrydawg

      Thing is, neither Philbert or Taters are all that qualified and will win in landslides.