JACKSON, Miss. — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit against Scott County on behalf of two inmates. The federal suit claims the county has illegally held the men in jail for as long as a year without appointing them legal representation or presenting their cases to a grand jury.
Court records show one defendant, Octavious Burks, has been in the Scott County jail since November 18, 2013. He is charged with attempted armed robbery, possession of a weapon by a felon, possession of paraphernalia and disorderly conduct. While the other, Joshua Bassett, was arrested January 16, 2014 and charged with grand larceny and possession of methamphetamine. Neither have been indicted.
The ACLU maintains that other prisoners in the Scott County jail have also been there for months because they could not pay bail and were denied counsel and a grand jury hearing.
“We’re seeking to make Scott County’s justice system function for all its residents. The county must set reasonable limits on the amount of time someone can remain in jail without a lawyer and without charges,” said Brandon Buskey, a staff attorney for the group’s Criminal Law Reform Project.
The ACLU, in its lawsuit, wants the release of prisoners who have not had an attorney appointed within one week after their initial court appearances and those who have not been indicted, but jailed for more than 21 days since their arrest. It also asks the court to order the district attorney and sheriff to put policies and procedures in place to monitor unindicted felony cases.
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