Project EJECT continuing success in capital cityBy ANTHONY WARREN,
A longstanding partnership between the city of Jackson and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has continued to reap rewards for the capital city. That partnership is Project EJECT, or “Empower Jackson Expel Crime Together.”
In 2019, approximately 100 people were arrested as part of the initiative. At press time, nearly half of those individuals had plead guilty to or had been convicted on federal charges and had been sentenced to a combined 286 years in federal prison.
“We have the full force of the federal government behind this project and we are committed to bringing down violent crime in the city of Jackson,” U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst said.
The news is welcome to the capital city, which has faced significantly high rates of homicides in the last two years. Eighty-two murders were reported in Jackson in 2019, compared with 84 the year before.
“Even though murders increased in 2018, violent crime decreased seven percent,” he said. “Although murders are unacceptably too high, we are making a difference. The project is working and violent crime is coming down.”
Hurst said the majority of murders in the city result from domestic or interpersonal disputes, which do not fall under federal jurisdiction. Other crimes, like carjackings or illegal possession of firearms, however, do fall under his office’s purview.
“In the federal system, we have a very limited jurisdiction when it comes to local violent crimes, but the tools we have are powerful and potent,” he said.
EJECT was implemented under former U.S. Attorney Gregory Davis and has been continued under Hurst, who was appointed by President Donald Trump.
The partnership is between the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, the Jackson Police Department (JPD), and other federal and state law enforcement agencies.
The program’s focus is to get the city’s “worst of the worst” criminals off the streets and send them away from Jackson, so they cannot continue their criminal enterprises behind bars.
“In the first year we did this, we charged 120 individuals in the city of Jackson. About 70 percent of those plead guilty,” Hurst said. “In the past year, we were on the same pace, with about 100 defendants charged and approximately 100 guns taken off the streets.”
Of those charged in 2019, 46 were either convicted by a federal grand jury or pled guilty. Sentences for those individuals ranged from as little as one year and one day to as many as 30.
Thirty-seven of the 46 were charged with gun possession crimes, while five were charged with armed carjacking, three were charged with armed robberies of local businesses, and one was charged with drug trafficking.
Unlike the state system, which has lenient rules for releasing criminals, those in the federal system must serve most of their sentence before being released.
Federal inmates may reduce their sentence 54 days for every year of good behavior achieved, according to a website for the Roberts Law Group, a North Carolina defense firm.
Hurst also points to the fact that the majority of those arrested under EJECT are not released on bail, unlike many criminals that face local judges.
“One of the things the city is struggling with is that a lot of local judges are seeing these violent criminals into their court and they’re turning around and releasing them back on the streets,” he said. “That’s something we’ve been speaking out against.
“Under EJECT, if you’re committing a crime and terrorizing your neighbors, we’re going to detain you until your trial.”
Two criminals sentenced under the project last year committed federal crimes while out on bail for other charges.
For instance, Clinton man Darrell Moore, 22, was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a federal judge for his involvement in a carjacking that took place while he was out on bond on a murder charge, according to a U.S. attorney press release.
Individuals are held at the Madison County Detention Center until their trial.
EJECT task force members discuss cases each week.
“Every Monday morning, we convene all members of the task force and go through the cases we have under indictment. We go through the cases and work with the district attorney to decide which is a better jurisdiction to take the cases,” he said.
The task force includes representatives from Hurst’s office, JPD, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and other agencies.
“We go through our intelligence from the boots on the ground. Who are the trigger pullers, the most violent criminals in the communities that we need to focus our resources on?” he said.