Pearl River County to receive new ADA

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 5, 2014

Pearl River County and the rest of the 15th Circuit Court District will benefit from Wednesday’s special session called by Gov. Phil Bryant that discussed the need for more assistant district attorneys.

On the last day of the session, Gov. Phil Bryant called a Special Legislative Session to ensure the state could hire additional assistant district attorneys, which Bryant had recommended in his Fiscal Year 2015 Executive Budget.

With the session coming to an end and the House and Senate negotiators having trouble reaching an agreement, Bryant stepped in. The original bill would have not only added more prosecutors, but also judges and rearranged circuit and chancery court district boundaries.

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The new bill adds 16 new prosecutors in circuit courts throughout the state, with Pearl River County receiving a new prosecutor on Nov. 1.

Pearl River County District Attorney Hal Kittrell said the bill will increase the number of state funded assistant district attorneys from five to six. He said the county funds one ADA and another is funded by a grant.

“I’m really appreciative of Gov. Bryant for recognizing the importance of the need for more prosecutors,” Kittrell said.

He said the “extraordinary” part of the bill was that the governor called a special session just to guarantee the issue was addressed before the session ended.

It was Kittrell’s understanding that the governor rarely calls special sessions, so to him it shows how seriously the governor takes the issue of funding public safety.

“Public prosecutors in Mississippi are understaffed, which causes backlogs and inefficiencies in the judicial process. These same prosecutors will be responsible for implementing many of the criminal justice reforms we have signed into law. We must provide additional assistant prosecutors,” Bryant said in a press release.

Kittrell pointed out that the special session costs taxpayers nothing.

“Because the special session is concurrent with the regular session, no additional travel is required by lawmakers; I urge them to waive additional per diem reimbursements and save taxpayer dollars while they get this work done,” Bryant said.

Earlier this year, Bryant pledged that the session would focus on public safety. In addition to funding more prosecutors, five other bills provided funding in other law enforcement and judicial matters.

The bills include:

—   Funding to conduct training for more Highway Patrol troopers. In a statement from the governor’s office, Bryant said the Highway Patrol force is short about 150 officers. The funding will allow for the hiring and training of 60 new troopers.

—   The “Right on Crime” criminal justice reform that will help save Mississippi $266 million on corrections costs over the next 10 years.

—   Funding the relocation of the State Crime Lab that will allow the lab to process more evidence for more cases.

—   A measure to require the DNA testing of felony violent offenders to determine if they are linked to other cases.

—   Funding for Mississippi’s drug courts, which provide treatment options and an alternative to incarceration.