JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Mississippi's criminal justice system suffers from case backlogs already. Criminal suspects fester in county jails or even on the streets, awaiting trial for violent crimes. But that backlog is about to get worse.
Our legislature says it can no longer afford to pay any assistant district attorneys or investigators in those offices. Madison Rankin D.A. Michael Guest says the funding will run dry three months from now.
"Basically, I will have to furlough all of my state funded attorneys except one week of pay in June, two weeks in May," Guest says.
In the tri-county area, the Hinds County District Attorney's office stands to lose a whopping 10 out of its 14 assistant D.A.'s. The remaining four are funded out of county or grant funds. Madison Rankin would have to shave off 4 out of its 8 assistants.
3 out of the 4 investigators in our Hinds D.A.'s office would be cut. In Madison Rankin, 2 out of 4would go. Again, those who would remain are not paid by state funds.
"These people really tick me off," says Jones County Assistant D.A., J. Ronald Parish. He's not mincing words about his feelings for lawmakers. "They are all up there trumpeting their little horns and trying to make some kind of publicity for themselves," he says.
But a group of district attorneys met with legislators at the Capitol on Thursday, hoping for some emergency deficit funding. If it doesn't come through, the cuts to the justice system could have a domino effect.
"It's going to cause criminals potentially to be released. It's going to affect public safety. I think it's something criminal defense attorneys will try to take advantage of," Guest says.
Those attorneys and investigators who stand to lose their jobs can likely find higher paying jobs in the private sector. Consequently, if they're furloughed or cut, they may never come back.
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