OPINION: ‘Chaos or Community’? Citizens Co-conspirators in Broken Criminal System

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Over the last several weeks, I have observed our local community plagued by gun violence with double-digit deaths reported as if we were in a war zone. I have watched the news, read the articles, and followed what is said and not being said on social media. I have seen and even participated in dialogue that focused more on who said what about the issue than the issue.

I have heard and watched the reports of possible prison riots (or was it rebellion?) and held my breath as the number of deaths of persons held in prison continued to rise. I braced as I watched the news of law enforcement deployments to prison facilities and then fell on my knees to pray for families and friends both of those providing security as well as those being secured.

I have prayed, cried and wondered what can be done, how did we get here, and where do we go?

And so I offer this—there is a changing of the guard in our state, counties and even in some of our cities. The changing of the guards should bring fresh and renewed strength at the posts. This also presents an opportunity for breakthrough. This is an opportunity for us to do differently. In order to do differently, we must know how we got here.

Mississippi leaders have historically created and encouraged incarceration as an intentional pathway for a segment of Mississippi's society, disproportionately the African American community. The abolition of slavery adversely impacted the economics of Mississippi's elite citizenry, the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws took its place. The Mississippi Legislature started instituting these laws in 1865 immediately after the Civil War, continuing until the 1960s, to regulate and criminalize the actions of freedmen. Jim Crow segregation laws resulted in the rise of punitive control mechanisms

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