- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Jan. 21

The Greenwood Commonwealth on the recent violence in Mississippi prisons:

If there’s anything positive about the recent violence in Mississippi prisons, it’s that the continuing news coverage makes it more likely that substantial assistance is coming soon.



It also helps that a new governor, Tate Reeves, has taken office. The prison problem, which included the deaths of at least five inmates over a period of six days, gives him a substantial opportunity to show the public he can be a governor of action.

Reeves last week called the prison situation a catastrophe and said the state will undertake a nationwide search for a new corrections commissioner.

The governor named Tommy Taylor, a former state legislator, as the interim corrections commissioner. The group searching for a permanent commissioner includes another former lawmaker, George Flaggs, who like Taylor once served as chairman of the House Corrections Committee.

Other developments include a lawsuit filed last week by former Parchman inmates, who allege that Mississippi’s prisons are understaffed and plagued by violence. The Department of Corrections also has had to find temporary housing for up to 1,000 inmates because of damage to prison facilities during the recent disturbances.

All of this makes it far more likely that this year’s Legislature will increase the budget for corrections. Given everything that’s being reported, they would be foolish not to do it.

Corrections officials want the state to provide another $67 million for Mississippi’s three prisons in the coming budget year. The money would be used to hire 800 more guards, raise the starting pay for guards by more than $4,000 to $30,000 a year, and increase pay for other corrections employees.

Reeves deserves credit for making decisive moves in his first couple of days as governor. However, he and Republican lawmakers who made the budget decisions in prior years also deserve the blame for letting the prison problems get so bad.

Corrections officials warned the Legislature for several years that a lack of manpower was making things dangerous in prisons. But lawmakers chose not to do anything.

Mississippi’s new corrections commissioner needs to be someone who can manage the challenge of finding and keeping competent guards, and who can choke off the lawlessness that has been reported in state facilities. The new commissioner also must persuade lawmakers to open the state’s checkbook.

There is another element of corrections that needs continued attention: Figuring out which prisoners are truly dangerous and need to be behind bars, and which ones would benefit more from alternative (and less expensive) punishments such as drug court and house arrest.

Reforms that greatly reduce the inmate count while preserving public safety will be the best way to bring order to the state’s prisons.

Online: https://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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Jan. 20

The (Tupelo) Daily Journal on National Mentoring Month:

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

― Benjamin Franklin

January is National Mentoring Month, focusing on how we can all work together to increase the number of mentors to make sure young people in our communities have dependable people to look up to and follow in their footsteps.

The goal of this designation is to raise awareness of mentoring in its various forms, recruit individuals to mentor, and promote the rapid growth of mentoring by recruiting organizations to engage in mentoring.

One in three young people are growing up without a mentor outside their family. This is the mentoring gap in America. That’s 9 million young people without a mentor outside their family. The Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership founded National Mentoring Month in 2002 because this is a critical component in young people’s lives, helping them make the decisions and connections that lead to opportunity.

At its core, mentoring guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional situations. Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and development, and social and economic opportunity. Yet one in three young people will grow up without this critical asset, according to mentoring.org.

For example, Big Brothers Big Sisters, as the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life.

The group makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), to develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.

According to Brandon Busteed, the executive director of Gallup’s education division, successful students had one or more teachers who were mentors and took a real interest in their aspirations, and they had an internship related to what they were learning in school.

Students who were successful got as much applied, hands-on experience as possible, whether in a classroom or on a job site. Schools, colleges and training centers had close partnerships with employers, industry groups and skilled trade groups to stay up to date on job-relevant skills.

Regionally, we see these successes through our community college – industry group – education group partnerships. Today, businesses want employees out of college or technical schools who are as ready to hit the ground running. This encourages the need for more employer-educator partnerships.

At a time when much of the focus is on what divides us, MENTOR research shows that there is something the majority of Americans agree on: mentoring relationships are powerful tools for connection and are critical to our country’s future. Americans are overwhelmingly crossing racial, economic, and other bridges to mentor young people outside their families.

Paying it forward allows us to be a part of the success of others. We need to share our knowledge, giving to others what was freely given to us.

“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Online: https://www.djournal.com/

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Jan. 17

The (Columbus) Dispatch on the need for more storm shelters:

The suggestion seemed to come almost as an afterthought.

During Wednesday’s (Jan. 15) Lowndes County Board of Supervisors meeting, Roger Short, the county’s park director, presented an update on the progress of repairs and renovations to the Crawford gym, which is being funded by a $350,000 bond appropriation passed by the Legislature in 2018.

Noting the cost estimate for the project is well short of the money available — by about $50,000 — District 4 supervisor Jeff Smith asked if the project could be amended to retrofit the gym as a storm shelter.

Smith was told that the remaining funds would not cover the cost of the alteration.

That idea may have been dismissed, but the issue remains.

The lack of shelters represents a public safety issue. Mississippi averages 21 tornadoes from January through April each year; last year though April the state saw 83.

There is currently only one public storm shelter west of the river, which is in the District 5 road department barn.

We note that for the most part, there are no county public storm shelters east of the river either. The new Caledonia elementary school was built with a storm shelter.

This is an issue the county should consider a priority.

In Starkville, the city spent almost $2 million to build a large shelter, with most of those funds ($1.4 million) coming from a Federal Emergency Management Authority grant.

In Columbus, the city is using a matching grant from the Mississippi Emergency Management Authority to build 11 small storm shelters located near the city’s fire departments. The cost of the shelters is estimated at $6,000 each, with MEMA providing 75% of the funds. It will cost the city less than $20,000 to build the 11 shelters.

The idea of such smaller shelters dispersed around the outlying areas seems ideally suited for the smaller communities in the county.

To date, there have been no inquiries into the availability of FEMA or MEMA grants that would defray the expense of those shelters. Might those funds be available? We don’t know. Perhaps we have not because we ask not, as the saying goes.

While it’s uncertain if the balance of the Crawford gym funds could be used for that purpose, the county should pursue every available avenue to provide storm shelters for its residents. Even without grants, the county is in a financial position to address this public safety issue.

It’s worth noting that for the past five years, supervisors have used more than $4 million in hospital trust funds to pay for capital improvements, including building community centers and a new E-911 Center, which was also constructed to serve as a storm shelter.

Supervisors have also earmarked hospital funds for a planned sports complex in the west part of the county.

We offer no criticism of those projects, but we do believe that providing public storm shelters is good use of those trust funds.

Online: https://www.cdispatch.com/

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