- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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June 22

The Daily Leader says a U.S. Supreme Court ruling about tracking cellphones is a win for privacy:

The Supreme Court’s decision Friday regarding cellphones and police is a win for privacy, but it will likely draw the ire of law enforcement officers.



The court ruled 5-4 that police need a search warrant if they want to track a suspect’s movement by collecting data that shows where they’ve used a cellphone.

Just like on TV shows, police can use cellphone tower information to track a suspect’s movement. The court did not rule that police can no longer use this practice, but the ruling will mean law enforcement must get a warrant to do so in most situations.

In emergency situations, police can still obtain those records without a warrant.

If you value privacy, the ruling is a win. The fear was that the government could snoop on citizens in ways that did not relate to a crime or in other ways that are unjustified. If police can always access cellphone records to determine your location, you may get included in a pool of potential suspects even though you are not connected to a crime in any way.

For many, that’s more Big Brother than they want in their lives.

As technology continues to advance, and more of our lives are contained in the data living in our cellphones, it will be imperative that there are robust privacy protections.

It is easy to say that innocent people have nothing to hide, but in reality, innocent people are implicated in crimes all the time. Requiring a warrant to obtain cellphone tracking data should help protect innocent Americans. That’s a win for everyone.

Online: https://www.dailyleader.com/

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June 26

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal says the plight of female inmates deserves attention:

As a growing effort looks at ways to reform Mississippi’s criminal justice system, particular attention must be paid to the plight faced by incarcerated women and girls.

Although women and girls make up only 8 percent of Mississippi’s inmate population, that number is growing, according to a new report from Washington, D.C.-based national advocacy group The Sentencing Project.

Mississippi’s rate of female incarceration rose 925 percent between 1978 and 2016, from 8 to 82 incarcerated women per 100,000 female residents, as reported by Mississippi Today. That ranks Mississippi 14th nationally for the rate of female incarceration.

Nationally, 1.2 million women and girls are under the supervision of the criminal-justice system, with 1 million on probation or parole and another 200,000 in local jails or state and federal prisons.

Most women are imprisoned for nonviolent crimes, according to The Sentencing Project. Only 37 percent of women in state prisons in 2016 were convicted of a violent crime.

The plight of women and girls in the criminal justice system is significant, and not just because their numbers seem to be growing. They also face a unique set of circumstances, due to family pressures and the fact that they face more difficulties in finding jobs, after being released, than do male inmates.

More than 60 percent of women in state prisons have at least one child under age 18.

In the Mississippi Today article, ACLU of Mississippi executive director Jennifer Riley Collins notes the pressures those women face upon leaving prison. They must stay clean and sober, return to a primary caretaker role for their children, earn a livable wage, obtain reliable childcare and transportation, and find safe and sober housing for themselves and their children. At the same time, they’re trying to meet requirements of community supervision and additional demands of other public agencies, such as child welfare.

In Mississippi, with its historic challenges, all of these issues are generally linked with generational poverty and a lack of education.

Then there is the fact that Mississippi tends to allocate more resources to its male inmates. For instance, the Mississippi Department of Correction’s website lists 13 vocational opportunities for men, such as auto mechanic and welding technology, and only five for women.

Criminal justice reform has gained the attention of state lawmakers in recent years. That has included such topics as sentencing reform or restoring the voting rights of felons.

Given their rising numbers and unique challenges, those conversations must pay particular attention to the plight faced by female inmates.

That starts with a careful examination to better understand why the number of female inmates is rising and to comprehend the depth of challenges they face both during their incarceration and after their release.

Online: http://www.djournal.com

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June 27

The Greenwood Commonwealth says Mississippi schools have many job openings:

Mississippi is in the middle of its typical hot and humid summer. Perhaps no group is sweating more than public school officials, who by one report still have 2,100 jobs to fill by the beginning of August.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported this week that school districts across the state have plenty of openings for teachers, nurses, bus drivers and other employees.

The story noted that Mississippi’s average starting teacher pay of $34,780 two years ago was nearly $4,000 below the national average. That means Mississippi’s starting pay almost certainly is below that of neighboring states, and a difference of a couple of thousand dollars would be a strong incentive for fresh college graduates to look elsewhere.

The knee-jerk reaction to this situation would be to raise the salaries for Mississippi teachers in order to be more competitive. But this gap has persisted for 30 years or more, and when other states raise pay, it means Mississippi constantly is aiming at a moving target when it comes to regional or national average teacher salaries. This battle may not be winnable.

The Legislature, which allocates the state’s education money, has made it clear that it will not consider large, across-the-board pay raises for teachers. So any significant raises may have to be funded by local tax dollars. If wealthier districts do that, it would put rural, less-populated and poorer districts at even more of a disadvantage at competing for teachers in the state - not to mention with districts in other states.

In the Tupelo paper’s story, a superintendent noted that rural schools always have struggled to recruit and keep young teachers. In his experience, not even higher pay can change that.

That’s what Mississippi is up against when it comes to finding teachers.

At the end of the day, school districts must hope they can find talented people who are willing to accept a challenge.

Online: http://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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