April 11, 2016 Rotogram: 35

MSU President Reports

In his eighth year leading “The People’s University,” Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum will update us on the university. Sid Salter will introduce him.

April 25: Family and Child Services

David Chandler is the Executive Director of the Division of Family and Children’s Services in the Mississippi Department of Human Services. Joe Thompson will introduce him.

For the Record—April 4

Invocation and Pledge:              Giles Lindley

Attendance:                                          74.2%

Present — 112 (43 exempt)

Absent — 69 (14 exempt, 12 honorary)

Makeups Reported: Kyle Jordan at Philadelphia, Newton, Ridgeland and Bay Springs.

Guests: Visiting Rotarian was Jimmy McCluskey. Member guests were Patricia Ruby and Gretchen Passons of Roy Ruby, Jan Zeppelin of Jean Faver and Judy Lann of Linda Karen Smith. Guests of the club were Matt Matthews,  Benadetta Trentarossi, RYE Student, and Alex Onken, Starkville Daily News.

Meeting Notes

  • President Zach congratulated a number of Rotarians for being cited in the Starkville Daily News’ “Best of Starkville.” They are: Man of the Year, Andy Gaston; Industry of the Year, Clark Beverage, Robert and Albert Clark; Best Administrator, Jeremy Nicholas; Best Boss, Mike Cayson; Best CPA, Jeff Read; Best Finance Company, Land Bank of Mississippi, Bart Harris; Best Financial Institution, Cadence Bank; Best Hardware Store, East Mississippi Lumber Company, Andy Gaston; Best Hospital, OCH Regional Medical Center, Patti Faver and Richard Hilton; Best Insurance Provider, Frank Chiles; Best Insurance Representative, Robyn Havard; Best Men’s Clothing, George Sherman; Best Mortgage Specialist, Cindy Palmer; Best MSU Supply Store, The Lodge, John Hendricks; Best Real Estate Agent, Pat Lane; and, Best Real Estate Firm, Coldwell Banker, Jean Faver and Michelle Amos. He gave a special thank you to Don Norman, SDN publisher, for his newspaper’s spotlight on community excellence. The awards are determined by community voting.
  • The president added a kudos for Mimmo Parisi’s receiving the MSU faculty award for enhancing university diversity.
  • He reported that the Charity Stripe fundraiser for polio eradication had seen good participation and would end that day.
  • He announced there would be a Rotoract interest meeting the following day at the Hunter Henry Center.

Pushmataha Area Boy Scout Council

Jeremy Whitmore, Pushmataha Area scout executive, accepted our $600 check supporting activities in the ten-county council. He reported that the council’s 1,100 scouts include 350 from Oktibbeha County who are led by more than 100 adult volunteers.

“I want to thank you for sponsoring Pack 14 and Troop 14,” he added.

Between the LionsReading Schedule

4/14, 9:15, Emerson – Nancy Walsh

4/15, 10:30, First Baptist CLC – William Ashley

4/18, 9:00, First Presbyterian – Trish Cunnetto

 

New District Attorney Promotes Tough, Smart, Fair Agenda

April 4 — “We need better priorities in our criminal justice system,” said newly-elected District Attorney Scott Colom. “We have to be tough on violent crime first.”

The Circuit Court District 16 prosecutor said the complement of tough enforcement is smart strategies that do not overload the criminal justice system. Then, he promotes a fair approach involving alternatives to incarceration.

“It’s quite fascinating what’s happening in Mississippi without a lot of attention,” the Columbus native said. “Yes, America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. A couple of years ago, Mississippi had the second highest rate amongst the states. And, our district had the highest rate among the districts.”

However, in two years, due to legislation, the state has moved from second to fifth in the incarceration rate standings. In short, the law lowers limits on judges’ discretion to impose long sentences for less serious crimes. And, it diminishes recidivism rates for people who are returned to jail for technical violations such as a failure to pay fines.

“There are some people who are just sociopaths and we have no choice but to lock them up,” he said. “But, if we can save people, get them out of the system, and have them become a taxpayer, it’s going to be better for all of us in the long run.”

The Wisconsin Law School graduate’s philosophy has been shaped through diverse work ranging from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to the Mississippi Center for Justice.

Explaining his pre-trial diversion program, Colom said, “There’s not much rehabilitation going on in jail. A lot of times, they come out worse than they went in. Even if they want to change, the barriers are too great.”

The pre-trial program focuses on non-violent crimes by first-time offenders. If the defendant successfully completes counseling, rehabilitation and drug testing, there is no felony on his or her record. However, the program is limited to one offense.

He stressed that under the state’s three-strike rules, a person convicted of a third felony, must serve a full sentence. Previous offenses are subject to a variety of term-reductions.

A critical factor in the “smart” component of his philosophy is the practical matter of staffing and case load in the criminal justice system. As an example, Colom reported there currently are 1,000 cases in Lowndes County alone. Besides Lowndes, District 16 covers Clay, Noxubee and Oktibbeha Counties.

With court terms every three months and a limited number of judges, he said there are inevitable delays, some lasting years. The district attorney wants to establish a two-attorney violent crime unit to focus on the more serious offenders. Unfortunately, the current caseload is delaying implementation.

He also intends to have his two investigators take a much more active role in gathering information before a case goes to the grand jury. Such action should reduce the load in the courts by removing weak, or unfounded cases.

When asked about crime in Oktibbeha County, Colom noted that the most numerous offense is felony DUI (a third conviction in a five year period). Violent crime is less of a problem than in other district counties. He attributes the pattern to the presence of a large student population and exceptional law enforcement agencies at the university and in the city and county.

 

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