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SPLC Action Fund Condemns Jackson Takeover

Takeover bills give authority over part of Jackson to Mississippi Capitol Police and unelected judges

JACKSON, Ms. — Today, the Mississippi State Legislature passed H.B.1020 and S.B. 2343 to expand the jurisdiction and authority of the Capitol Police, authorize the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to appoint four special judges to the Hinds County Circuit Court, and establish an inferior court, similar to a municipal court, within the Capitol Complex Improvement District. Mississippi Capitol Police will take control of a larger area of Jackson with authority to imprison Mississippians for misdemeanors. The bill also restricts free speech throughout Mississippi by forcing Mississippians to get written permission before holding an event on or near property owned by the state or any state official.

“By subjecting residents to a police presence they have no oversight over, the Jackson takeover weakens and diminishes the voices of Jackson communities,” said Waikinya Clanton, Mississippi State Director for the SPLC Action Fund. “It undermines equitable allocation of educational resources, stifles diverse business interests, further impedes economic growth and stability for the city of Jackson and deepens public safety concerns for Jackson residents.”

The new inferior court will have municipal court jurisdiction for all preliminary and criminal matters that occur within the greatly expanded Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID). It allows the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court to appoint four temporary special judges to the 7th Circuit District through 2026, with no limitations on their powers or duties.

“The Mississippi state legislature has stripped Hinds County communities of their right to elect all of their judges, a right afforded to Mississippians in every other county,” said Sonya Williams-Barnes, Mississippi Policy Director for the SPLC Action Fund. “The Capitol Complex Improvement District will be the only part of Mississippi subject to an inferior court where people prosecuted by the Attorney General and District Attorney can go straight to prison for simple misdemeanors.”

The legislature further undermines Hinds County residents by establishing a new court for the CCID to operate like a municipal court, but where the Attorney General or District Attorney’s office can lead the prosecution and send individuals, upon conviction, directly to MDOC prison rather than county jail. These changes make the CCID municipal court distinct from any other municipal court operating under Mississippi law.

The CCID was first created to provide funding for infrastructure in the Capitol. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature used federal relief funds to increase the size of the Capitol Police and create a special patrol unit. Historically, the Capitol Police guards the state Capitol and surrounding downtown. The Jackson takeover bills take law enforcement authority away from Jackson Police Department and the city’s government and gives primary jurisdiction within the CCID to the Capitol Police and gives them concurrent jurisdiction with the Jackson Police Department.