City of Greatest Potential
The City of Jackson, Mississippi is the city with the greatest potential in the United States. There is no place that could adapt to improvement in scholastic achievement and strategies in addressing poverty. Jackson is in such a state, the only direction is up.
The streets are more authentic than the sets for The Walking Dead. YouTubers travel there to quiz residents due to a designation of being the city with the most intellectually challenged citizens. There is a mass exodus. The city budget general fund decreased four million dollars or 2.5% during fiscal year 2021/2022, a period of historic inflation.
A majority black city in ruin, in high velocity descent, with the trappings of civilization in massive decay – but a city of valuable people who will benefit and prosper from some degree of order and law enforcement, receives a move from state government to restore safety to the streets. This is met with opposition and the most negative rhetoric.
Disapproval from the DOJ
The head of the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke writes: “Just like many past efforts to undermine Black political power, (the law) singles out the majority-Black City of Jackson for loss of local control of its judicial system and ability to self-govern and enforce its own municipal laws.” Clarke is the DOJ official in charge of ‘pattern or practice’ investigations of law enforcement agencies. She’s currently internet famous for her recent Capitol Hill testimony where, under oath, she expresses no awareness of the Missouri vs. Biden First Amendment case.
Baltimore and Chicago have way too many murders. But, their murder rate is not nearly that of Jackson, Mississippi. Other cities with stratospheric murder rates, Memphis, New Orleans, and St. Louis, are all well below Jackson. In 2021, with 160 murders the murder rate was 101.9 and in 2022, with 138 murders, a rate of 92.1 per 100,000 citizens. Jackson, with its far deadlier murder rate, than New Orleans with a rate of 70.6, rarely comes up in searches, perhaps due to its modest and declining population of about 130,000. Population has declined from a peak of 202,000 in 1980.
From my previous article in April:
On Friday, April 21, 2023, Governor Tate Reeves signed Senate Bill 2343 authorizing Capitol Police a larger jurisdiction (a defined improvement district within the city limits of Jackson) as well as House Bill 1020 creating a separate court for their criminal process. The City of Jackson Police Department is experiencing both a staffing and recruiting crisis and a serious crime problem. MSNBC reports that the homicide rate at 92.1 is the highest in the country for the second year in a row. While the quantity of murders dropped from 160 to 138 in 2022, the rate by population is more than triple Chicago with a 24.8. Police staffing is short by 110 officers and they are rapidly losing more than they are gaining.
The Mississippi State Capitol is seated in the City of Jackson. The crime and condition of the city, described by qualified voices as being worse than third-world status, gave unction to lawmakers, to broaden the scope of the services provided by the Mississippi Capitol Police within the city limits of Jackson.
In April, NBC news reported: “The NAACP sued Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves after he signed legislation that allows state authorities to exert more control over law enforcement in Jackson, including by expanding the Capitol Police, which shot four people last year without much public explanation.”
The NAACP lawsuit, signed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, is focused on the criminal court being set up by the state to try cases by the Capitol Police. The accusation is that the majority black residents of the City of Jackson are being disenfranchised by having criminal cases being heard by two judges who were appointed and not locally democratically elected.
Missing from the conversation in media reports is that, first, it is not unusual to have a mix of elected and appointed judges within a judicial circuit, and second, this would only constitute a misdemeanor court. Felonies would remain in the courtrooms of elected and appointed state circuit judges.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) appears to be in conflict with their mission. All opposition on this issue has been fully based on race, however not for the benefit of the demographic that they claim to advance.
Section 4 of the NAACP compliant filed in April 2023 points out this basis of fact:
“Jackson’s residents live in a city that has one of the highest proportions of Black residents in the United States (more than 80%). In municipal and county elections, these residents wield significant political power. There is a longstanding tradition of Black leadership in Jackson; the City of Jackson is currently governed by a Black mayor and majority-Black city council. All four of the elected judges in Hinds County, which is primarily comprised of the City of Jackson, are Black.”
While the lawsuit leans heavily on the 14th Amendment regarding due process and equal protection, the actual allegation is that black people reasonably have a different expectation of justice, and higher confidence in, black leaders and judges.
However, the scope of what is being proposed is that two judges appointed by the Mississippi Attorney General, occupy a bench, to hear misdemeanor cases charged by the Mississippi Capitol Police within the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID.) Prosecutors would also be appointed by the attorney general.
In Section 149, the complaint continues: “A failure to enjoin (obstruct by injunction) the appointment of prosecutors for the CCID Court will immediately irreparably harm Plaintiffs and the more than 100,000 Black residents of Jackson who will be denied political representation afforded to all other residents of the State, subjected to a second-class criminal justice system, and suffer disparate prosecution because of their race.”
While Jackson is 80% black and 15% white, the state of Mississippi is 58% white and 38% black. Britannica reports that Mississippi has the highest percentage of black population of all states.
Unfortunately, like too many other areas, black citizens statewide are disproportionally ‘justice involved.’ The lawsuit alleges “…there is a federal equal protection right for Black residents to be treated like white residents when a state makes elected prosecutors available.” However, the courtroom prosecutors are not individually elected, instead are deputies of the elected prosecutor. The attorney general is elected in a statewide election and is dispatching deputies to serve as prosecutors in this CCID court.
Let’s not forget that we are discussing a misdemeanor court. A misdemeanor court that only has jurisdiction over arrests and charges from a single agency in a discrete district within the city. One of my more pragmatic Generation Z interns would state the obvious: criminals should not commit crimes in the district and should commit their crimes elsewhere.
The effort to rescue the City of Jackson in addressing violent felonies by supplementing the local police force and relieving the overwhelmed court, is being fought by the NAACP and the United States Department of Justice. It is unbelievable that both organizations would stand against an effort to save black lives.
Jackson is the city of the greatest potential. Every ivy league university should have a college of social work in Jackson. Instead of sending Peace Corp volunteers to 60 countries, perhaps we consider sending them to Mississippi?
A Christmas wish
This is my last article before Christmas. As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving article, I have made several friends in this community of writers and having the opportunity to meet with some in person, on podcasts, and by phone, has me incredibly optimistic and excited about 2024 and beyond. We are going to help a lot of people in the coming year and beyond.
I don’t see the near future being without a substantial increase turmoil and discord but as a Christian, my faith is not based on an easy ride on greased rails. My faith is my source facing these incredibly troubling times and my wish for you this Christmas is wherever you are in your walk with God, that you do your best to reconnect, help someone in your space connect to faith, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Please keep all our peace officers in your prayers!
“Just like many past efforts to undermine Black political power, (the law) singles out the majority-Black City of Jackson for loss of local control of its judicial system and ability to self-govern and enforce its own municipal laws,” wrote Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the department’s Civil Rights Division, and Todd Gee, the U.S. attorney for south Mississippi, in a Dec. 5 federal court filing.