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.