Are Hinds County Detainees being held too long? - - Jackson, MS

Are Hinds County Detainees being held too long?

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

We continue to uncover new information about inmates being held too long at the Hinds County Detention Facility. One inmate has been locked behind bars since 2006. So, is justice being served?

More than 400 detainees are being held at the Hinds County Detention Center waiting for their day in court.

"I am not here to point fingers," said Hinds County Public Defender Michele Purvis Harris. "What I do know is that the people that are down there are pretrial detainees. They have not been convicted of anything. That is what we want to stress. They have a constitutional right to a speedy trial and that is not happening."

We uncovered documents Wednesday revealing Markuieze Bennett died inside the detention center, as his attorney continued to fight for his speedy trial and to prove his innocence. We also discovered many other inmates are in the same predicament.

A public report shows how many inmates are behind bars and how long they have been there. Seventy-four of the inmates listed on this paperwork have been locked up waiting for justice to be served for more than two years. One man has been in since 2006 and another since 2007, without ever being convicted of a crime.

Why are inmates waiting behind bars for so long? These are questions Harris is trying to get to the bottom of.

"One of the main problems is the backlog, and cases need to move more swiftly," said Harris.

I also posed the same question to Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.

"Oh, God absolutely not. There are thousands and thousands of people being recycled out," said Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith. "There was a backlog before I got in office of about four or five thousand cases that we got rid of. The people that are in there for a very long time maybe five years, four years, there are mental issues that are being evaluated."

But, what about those inmates that don't need mental evaluations?

"They request for their hearings to go forward in front of the judge and the judge rules whether or not their case goes to trial," said Smith.

Harris says there is not one main solution to this large problem. She says the first step is for there to be a willingness to cooperate.

"If the evidence is not there, regardless of heinous the crime might be, if the evidence is not there, that charge needs to be dismissed and that individual needs to be released," said Harris.

"Unless the attorney argues before the court, the court has to make a final ruling on whether or not a person's constitutional right has been violated," said Smith.

Our investigation continues Friday night. Watch WLBT News at 6 to hear more about this problem some say exists and what could be done to fix it.

Copyright 2014 MSNewsNow. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly