From jail overcrowding to a backlog on autopsy reports, Hinds County’s criminal justice system is faced with a number of challenges.
Assistant District Attorney Jamie McBride discussed those issues recently with the North Jackson Rotary Club.
Among factors inhibiting the county’s criminal justice system is jail overcrowding and the long wait times it takes to receive a report from the state medical examiner.
McBride also discussed the backlog of cases facing circuit judges in Hinds County, who are faced with one of the state’s busiest civil and criminal dockets.
“It’s difficult, but that’s the nature of the beast right now,” he said. “We try to do things to move (cases) along.”
McBride, who previously served as assistant district attorney for Madison and Rankin counties, said Hinds County has “so many more cases” than its neighboring counterparts.
“The volume is intense. We have a lot more shootings. You talk to some of the officers, and one of the problems is that you have young guys who break into cars and houses, get guns and (shoot someone),” he said. “It’s a much bigger problem we have here than in Rankin County.”
The sheer volume of cases is exacerbated by the already overloaded dockets of the county circuit courts, as well as the backlog of cases in the state medical examiner’s office.
McBride said it can take months for a trial to go to court, simply because his office has to wait to get autopsy reports and other reports from the medical examiner.
“As a prosecutor it doesn’t make my job any easier,” he said. “They get the autopsy done and it can be more than a year before the autopsy report is available. We can’t go to trial without the report.”
Reports are needed to provide pertinent information in murder cases, such as the angle of stab wounds and bullet entries. That data can help determine a suspect’s guilt or innocence, he explained.
McBride said victims can also slow down the wheels of justice by requesting a mental evaluation.
“The defense attorney thinks they may have a problem with the defendant, and we’re ethically bound to have them evaluated,” he said. “The court will grant that and that can be a several-years process.”
Judges and officials in the district attorney’s office also have to deal with jail overcrowding.
Individuals being charged with crimes in Hinds County are held at the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond.
McBride said the ultimate goal is to ensure there are enough beds for violent offenders and repeat offenders.
Nonviolent offenders sometimes are released and put on a diversionary route to free up space.
“We don’t want to fill up the jail when we have violent crimes to deal with,” he said. “If you’re out on felony bond and get arrested and charged with a crime, you are not entitled to bond, according to Article Three of the (state) constitution. We have a lot of those.”