Mississippi editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal on inmate deaths:
The number of inmates who died in state prisons last month is alarming.
And the trend may not be as rare as we think it is.
On Friday, the Mississippi Department of Corrections posted a notice on its website that a 15th inmate had died in state custody in August, as reported by the Associated Press.
Earl King Davis died Thursday at a Vicksburg hospital, where he was taken from South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville. The 55-year-old Davis was serving 20 years. In 2008, he was sentenced to 10 years for manslaughter, and in 2009, he was sentenced to 10 years for aggravated assault.
Davis’ death prompted corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall to say she is asking the FBI and Department of Public Safety to examine recent inmate deaths. She said she was making the request in the interest of government transparency, though she believed most deaths were from natural causes, such as heart disease or cancer.
In fact, a day earlier, the DOC had reported the death of 45-year-old Curtis Hughes, who was pronounced dead in the hospital at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. At the time, Hall said the number of deaths in Mississippi prisons in August was not “out of line” with previous months.
That’s not exactly a comforting statement.
August’s death toll has caught the attention of the media and of state politicians. If it isn’t an anomaly, that is all the more reason the state needs to carefully investigate these deaths and act to prevent them.
MDOC records show that 78 prisoners died in state custody in 2017, according to Mississippi Today.
Officials in Greene and Sunflower counties, where South Mississippi Correctional Institution and Parchman are located, told Mississippi Today that the number of in-custody deaths this month are on par with the numbers they usually see.
“I am going to get the public some answers,” Attorney General Jim Hood said in a statement last week.
Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Bryant told reporters last week that officials will investigate each death. He said inmates who die “are just as important as anyone else in the state of Mississippi whose lives have been lost.”
And he’s absolutely right. Prisoners may be serving time for various transgressions, but they have every right to an expectation of safety during their time behind bars. Some of the deaths may be due to natural causes, but the state owes it to these men and women to ensure they are kept safe while in state custody.
We are glad the FBI and the Department of Public Safety are investigating the issue. That investigation must be thorough, transparent and complete.
Too many state inmates are dying. It is time to get answers and take corrective actions.
The Greenwood Commonwealth on plans for a medical complex in Mississippi:
Gov. Phil Bryant came into office in 2012 vowing to start a medical complex in Mississippi. The challenge presented by that goal is clear by the fact that it took more than six years to unveil plans for it.
Economists are predicting that the Medical City at Tradition, a new community on the Gulf Coast, could create up to 9,400 jobs over the next decade and, over that same period, generate between $1.3 billion and $2 billion worth of new economic activity.
Planners chose the right beginning for the Tradition medical complex. A press release said the first component pursued will be the creation of the National Diabetes and Obesity Research Center, described as “a world-class research center with the mission of finding a cure for diabetes.”
Indeed, Mississippi will need plenty of world-class research to do something about its problems with diabetes and obesity, which are two medical conditions in abundance among the population.
The high rates of poor health — diabetes alone costs the state an estimated $3 billion a year — are a drag on the broader economy. At the very least, they require more spending on government benefits. Even worse, they keep more people out of the labor force.
Plans for Tradition include a nursing school for 800 students, operated by Gulf Coast Community College. The school will be named after Bryant.
If things go as planned, the governor will deserve the recognition.
The Brookhaven Daily Leader on former Vice President Joe Biden’s eulogy at a memorial service for Sen. John McCain:
Former Vice-President Joe Biden gave a touching, emotional eulogy at Thursday’s memorial service for Sen. John McCain. It was an inspiring message of unity, of friendship trumping political divisions, and of service.
The nation, divided along ideological lines in extremes that are hard to understand, could learn a few lessons from these two men. They often differed politically, but had enough respect and fondness for one another to overcome any differences for the sake of their friendship. They were at times political enemies, yet remained personal companions.
Below are excerpts of Biden’s eulogy. We could all learn a thing or two from his words.
“My name is Joe Biden. I’m a Democrat. And I loved John McCain.
″. We got to know each other well and he loved my son Beau and my son Hunt. As a young man, he came up to my house and he came up to Wilmington and out of this grew a great friendship that transcended whatever political differences we had or later developed because, above all, above all, we understood the same thing. All politics is personal. It’s all about trust. I trusted John with my life. I think he would trust me with his. And as our lives progressed, we learned more, there are times when life can be so cruel, pain so blinding it’s hard to see anything else.
“Character is destiny. John had character. While others will miss his leadership, passion, even his stubbornness, you are going to miss that hand on your shoulder. Family, you are going to miss the man, faithful man as he was, who you knew would literally give his life for you. And for that there’s no balm but time. Time and your memories of a life lived well and lived fully.
“John’s story is an American story. It’s not hyperbole. It’s the American story, grounded in respect and decency, basic fairness, the intolerance through the abuse of power.
“John was a hero, his character, courage, honor, integrity. I think it is understated when they say optimism, that’s what made John special, made John a giant among all of us. In my view, John didn’t believe that America’s future and faith rested on heroes. We used to talk about — he understood what I hope we all remember — heroes didn’t build this country. Ordinary people being given half a chance are capable of doing extraordinary things, extraordinary things. John knew ordinary Americans understood each of us has a duty to defend, (the) integrity, dignity and birthright of every child.
“Bottom line was, I think John believed in us. I think he believed in the American people. Not just all the preambles. He believed in the American people, all 325 million of us. Even though John is no longer with us, he left us clear instructions. ‘Believe always in the promise and greatness of America because nothing is inevitable here.’”