The shooting at Jackson’s recent Mudbug Festival on the state fairgrounds was a sad indictment of the juvenile lawlessness afflicting our capital city. A hundred shots were fired killing one and sending five to the hospital. Teens were the ones pulling the triggers. The incident was emblematic of the last four years which has seen Jackson’s murder rate triple. Jackson Mayor Chockwe Lumumba blamed it on fundamental social problems, but failed to acknowledge that he has dragged his feet on using available federal funds to increase the size of Jackson’s police force. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves blames local prosecutors, judges for not locking up criminals, but failed to acknowledge his administration has consistently underfunded our prison system, allowing gangs to run rampant.
There can be no doubt that fundamental social problems underlie the cavalier attitude toward life exhibited by certain elements of Jackson’s teenagers. At least half, probably more, of Jackson’s young teens grew up in households without a father. The decline of religious belief is a contributing factor, as is the social disruption caused by covid. As traditional social units such as family, church and neighborhood have declined the rise of social media has proven an inadequate replacement. There are many more fundamental forces many of which are difficult if not impossible to control.
There is one thing that is within governmental control: Properly funding our police, criminal justice system and prisons. This is where we see failure both at the local and state level. Governor Reeves is as much to blame in this regard as Mayor Lumumba.
In Alabama, federal judges are forcing the legislature to spend $2 billion on their state prison system. Mississippi barely dodged that bullet thanks to a more conservative federal judge but the writing is on the wall. If our state leaders don’t regain control of our prisons from the gangs, the feds will force them to. Gang influence is a major factor behind the violence. Our prisons must become well-run institutions for rehabilitation, not power bases for gangs. This will cost big-time money and require true state leadership.