With Mississippi experiencing a recent uptick in homicides, one state leader is imploring public policy solutions to make the state a safer place.
State Auditor Shad White says the notion of ending mass incarceration may sound positive to some, but it could yield negative results, especially in a state with a high per capita homicide rate. Instead, White would like to see criminals placed behind bars for a reasonable period of time to prevent said individuals from committing future crimes.
“There are a lot of homicides happening in Mississippi. I would rather all of the people who are murdering folks be in jail. That means more people need to be in prison,” White said on MidDays with Gerard Gibert
Despite polling data showing that the public believes 61 percent of a prison’s population consists of nonviolent drug offenders, White stated that only 22 percent of Mississippi’s jails are occupied by that demographic.
In addition, the average freed criminal is locked up again between 10 and 12 times after his or her initial stint behind bars. White, a self-proclaimed advocate for second chances, believes “catch and release” policies in which offenders face no jail time need to end for the betterment of vulnerable communities and taxpayers as a whole.
“We don’t want to pay for their prison time, but they go out and murder somebody. That’s going to cost the taxpayers too,” White continued. “They’re going to neighborhoods that are historically poor, that are most vulnerable to this kind of crime. If you have real compassion for those communities, you ought to be talking about what it’s going to take to get the most violent elements of our society off the streets and into prison.”
The state auditor believes increased police presence in these communities rife with violent crime is one of the ultimate solutions to the homicide problem at hand. However, White alleges that sensationalization of encounters between law enforcement and citizens hinders younger individuals from signing up to be an officer.
“The more we focus on those [instances], the less likely talented young people are going to want to be police officers in the first place ” White said. “When you talk about needing more police on the street, it’s not just a money issue, it’s a talent pipeline issue. We have to, as a society, stop badmouthing police. We need to start talking about the good stuff police do. Then, we have to use that as a way to recruit people into this very important field.”
To protect these vulnerable communities in Mississippi, White would like to see more officers on the ground, more criminals locked up and actually punished for their crimes, and an elimination of the bad reputation officers get collectively because of the actions of few.
Watch the full interview with White below.