Recent Deaths, DOJ Investigation Demonstrate the Existence of Systemic Issues, Jody Owens DA Says
Over the past five months, more than 40 inmates have died in Mississippi prisons. Some of these were violent deaths –either at the hands of others or themselves. Others were due to complications from COVID-19 and the inability of the prison system to implement protective measures. In February, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the beginning of an investigation into whether state prison officials have done enough to protect inmates. These events once again demonstrate that the system is badly in need of reform, says Jody Owens DA.
"When HB565 was signed six years ago, it was an important step toward reforming our justice system," said Jody Owens DA. "But much remains to be done. We need to continue this important civil rights work," said Jody Owens DA. Prisons are chronically understaffed and neglected. Gangs control whether inmates receive food, mattresses, or blankets. "Solutions must be found to ensure the safety and dignity of our inmates," said Jody Owens DA.
In addition to the chronic problems, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought acute issues. It has created the potential for prison sentences to become death sentences because social distancing, hand sanitizing protocols, and protective equipment are not found or as readily enforced in prison. "These deaths further demonstrate the inhumane conditions in prison, as well as the need to make use of alternatives to incarceration," said Jody Owens DA. Alternatives include restorative justice and mediation programs that empower communities to deal with their own conflicts and treatment, rather than the incarceration, of those who suffer from mental illness, Jody Owens DA said.
Jody Owens is the District Attorney (DA) of Hinds County, Mississippi (Jackson). Jody Owens DA has devoted his career to defending marginalized people from mass incarceration, private prisons, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Before becoming DA, Jody Owens was Managing Attorney of the Mississippi office of the Southern Poverty Law Center. In that role, he litigated civil rights cases throughout the state. Jody Owens DA has also litigated cases in other states, including Florida and Louisiana.
Jody Owens DA is a graduate of Jackson State University and Howard University Law School. Jody Owens DA has been a lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserves for more than seven years. He serves on many boards within the community including the Mississippi Art Museum and Springboard to Opportunities. He is married to Dr. Michelle Owens and they have three children.
Wednesday, April 29, 2020 10:20 AM
Judy Owens DA discusses Mississippi’s Walnut Grove privately-run prison and why it was forced to close.
WALNUT GROVE, MS / APRIL 29, 2020 / The privately-owned Walnut Grove prison was forced to close, and Jody Owens DA recently discussed why the decision was made and what it meant for everyone involved. Jody Owens DA described that, many times, these decisions come down to tighter budgets, but this closure was due to much more than that.
"Of course, a tighter than expected budget had to do with the closure, but as the public knows, it was mostly influenced by the deplorable conditions for prisoners and the unlawful acts forced upon them," Jody Owens DA said.
Jody Owens DA, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), explained that the private prison was created in 2001, as a location for inmates convicted of serious crimes when they were minors or children. In 2010, the prison faced difficulty, as it was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center for conditions. Jody Owens DA described that this federal settlement resulted in an eventual change of hands from the GEO Group private correctional operator to Management and Training Corp. The Management and Training Corp., took over prison management in 2012. However, a change in management appeared to do little in terms of prison condition improvement.
In 2015, Jody Owens DA successfully sued the prison again, because it had become clear minimal progress had been made toward improving the safety of the facility. Jody Owens DA described that this prison was one of the country’s worst in terms of safety and conditions.
It was this final suit that made it obvious the prison needed to close. Jody Owens DA described it as a joyous day for all of the prisoners who faced horrible conditions and treatment day in and day out at the facility. Jody Owens DA reiterated that Commissioner Fisher marked "budget constraints" as the reason for the prison’s closing, but she, the prisoners, the citizens Walnut Grove, and so many others know the truth behind the closer.
The Walnut Grove Correctional Facility closed in 2016, with a capacity of 1461 prisoners, according to Jody Owens DA. This same prison was described by the New York Times as a "scene of horror," in an article published Sept. 15, 2016.
"We are just so happy the functionality of this prison is behind us," Jody Owens DA said. "We saved a lot people from a lot of agony, and at the end of the day, our lawsuit was a job well done."
Jody Owens DA Shares Info on New Law Firms
Before becoming the district attorney for Hinds, Mississippi, Jody Owens DA spent many years operating a private practice law firm. Jody Owens DA knows that it is no secret that there are some insurmountable challenges that new law firms must face whenever they are created. They have to deal with the competition of pre-existing and successful law firms that control the client pool of a certain area. While this may seem like a David vs Goliath situation, Jody Owens DA is here to remind you that you have more power in your hands than you realize if you are starting up a new law firm. Just like any new business, there are certain steps that you need to take in order to start gaining traction Jody Owens DA is here to share some secrets that many new startups firms could greatly benefit from.
Every new lawyer wants to take on the world and be the best lawyer they can possibly be. While having ambition is very important for someone who just entered the law field, starting small will keep you from burning out. Jody Owens DA has seen plenty of law firms quickly fizzle out after being too ambitious and not playing the long game. Starting small is the best thing that you can do. This means that you should narrow your scope and focus on what is right in front of you. A couple of examples that Jody Owens DA has provided could include:
- Focus on the client pool that is in front of you (friends, family, colleagues).
- Market yourself to a budget that actually works. Don’t over-invest in this just yet.
- Slowly build your contacts up by visiting local networking events.
- This will ensure that you never lose sight of your passion and that you stand strong in the face of adversity.
Regardless of the competition, lawyers need to work together in order to build a prosperous network. Jody Owens DA has built his network over the years by being generous and sharing with other lawyers in his niche. He recommends that you do the same thing with your community. This means that you should play ball with others instead of focusing on being the cut-throat new guy on the block. You wouldn’t believe how many referrals Jody Owens DA has gotten over the years by simply networking with the right people.
However, it is known that it is incredibly difficult for an upstart lawyer to not want to take on the world right out of the gate. Jody Owens DA knows this better than anyone as he exemplified this behavior in his early years. However, this will lead to burnout and a world of disappointment if you go too fast too soon. Jody Owens DA encourages you to focus on your brand and develop it well. A good brand will stand the test of time and survive financial pitfalls (and there will be many in your first years). Fortunately, with enough tenacity, you will survive and move on to become a very successful lawyer in your local area.
No one knows the system in Jackson, Mississippi better than Jody Owens DA. Many can label the school system as a school-to-prison pipeline that many students fall prey to. Children are mistreated all throughout their childhood and adolescence and end up in the prison system after leaving college. Jody Owens DA is aware of the ongoing problem that is plaguing the school systems to this day even after his large victory many years ago.
Students were barbarically being handcuffed to poles and railing for many hours for minor offenses back in 2012. Some of these offenses were simply dress code based. The children at these schools in Jackson are treated like livestock as they are harassed, bullied, and oppressed by the authorities that run the system. Jody Owens DA states that some of the schools are a prison-like environment where the children are regularly cuffed, detained, and sometimes brutalized for non-compliance. Jody Owens DA believes that this is the cause of corruption for society in Jackson, Mississippi. Fortunately, Jody Owens DA would order a cease and desist of all harsh disciplinary measures of children in the schools in 2012. Though it was a victory, more trouble was to brew over the years since then.
Jody Owens DA believes that the cycle of school-to-prison starts at home and in schools. If children are treated like inmates all throughout their time in schools, then they will not properly develop into productive adults by the time that they leave high-school. Jody Owens DA has been fighting for the safety of children in the Jackson area for years and continues to do so to this day.
However, there is a problem that is plaguing the country. Schools have become more like prisons themselves over the years considering the amount of violence that has happened at them. Jody Owens DA works with his team of professionals in order to keep his students in his school districts safe and out of harm’s way. Society is changing and Jody Owens DA will continue to adapt so that he can get an upper hand on the situation in his school districts. The people put their faith in Jody Owens DA because they know that he has their children’s best interests in mind. Thankfully, we are beginning to see a change in the Jackson area school districts thanks to Jody Owens DA’s efforts over the years.