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Reeves introduces new MDOC and MDPS commissioners

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Burl Cain, Mississippi's new commissioner at MDOC, and Sean Tindell, commissioner of MDPS (Photos via video screen grabs)

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. appeared on Gov. Tate Reeves’ daily Facebook live update Wednesday to welcome two new commissioners to Mississippi state posts.

Reeves focus Wednesday was to update Mississippians on what his office has been doing other than working to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 crisis.

In January, Reeves named Flaggs to head up the search committee to find a replacement to lead the troubled Mississippi Department of Corrections after former Commissioner Pelice Hall resigned at the end of 2019. Beginning in December 2019, Mississippi prisons were the scene of gang violence and multiple deaths just as Reeves took office.

“More than just funding or politics or anything else, Mississippi’s prison system had a leadership crisis,” Reeves said.

The person selected by the committee, Burl Cain, was also on the dais, celebrating his first day on the job. Cain is the former warden at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in Louisiana. He served there for 21 years, from January 1995 until his resignation in 2016.

Reeves characterized Cain as “the legendary warden who transformed Angola from ‘America’s bloodiest prison’ to a model of faith-based reform,” in a Facebook post.

“To do the full component of what’s essential to have a good prison is good food, good praying, good playing and good medicine,” Cain said. “We have to have those four components, and that’s going to balance it out.

Flaggs thanked the governor for his leadership, and then added his endorsement of the new MDOC commissioner.

“I was overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted this job,” Flaggs said, “and this committee looked at every application and every situation facing us in this crisis situation as it relates to the Department of Corrections.”

“I know of no person who was in that application pool or in this country who can do what this man can do given the opportunity,” he added.

Reeves also introduced the new commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Sean Tindell.

Tindell has been a judge in the Mississippi Court of Appeals since 2017, when he was appointed by former Gov. Phil Bryant. He is a former assistant district attorney and a state senator.

“I look forward to the opportunity to serve the state of Mississippi,” Tindell said.

“As with any organization, it takes everyone from top to bottom, to develop a culture of excellence. … In order to achieve the excellence required of us, there can be no room for big egos and grandstanding,” he added, “It simply will not be tolerated.”

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Search for two young men on the Mississippi to resume Sunday morning

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(photo by Thomas Parker)

The search for the two missing young men on the Mississippi River near the LeTourneau Landing has been called off for the night and will resume at 7:30 a.m. Sunday according to Warren County Fire Coordinator Jerry Briggs.

Anyone participating in the search is asked to coordinate their efforts through the incident command which is set up south of LeTourneau Road.

Multiple agencies are assisting in the efforts to locate the missing men. Numerous items that were in the boat and the boat itself have been recovered.

The young men, Gunner Palmer, 16, from Copiah County, and Zeb Hughes, 21, of Wesson, Mississippi, went out on a boat Thursday with their dog to find a good spot for duck hunting near Davis Island. They have not been heard from since Thursday afternoon.

Sunday will mark the fourth day of search and recovery efforts.

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Silver Alert issued for Holmes County man

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(photo courtesy MDPS)

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has issued a Silver Alert for Charlie H. Haynes Jr., 61, of Durant, Mississippi, in Holmes County.

Haynes is a black male, 6 feet tall, weighing 260 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.

He was last seen Thursday, Dec. 3, at about 8:30 a.m. in the vicinity of Park Street in Holmes County. He was wearing a blue shirt and gray pants.

Haynes is believed to be in a 2020 beige ES350 Lexus bearing Mississippi license plate HNT1037 and traveling in an unknown direction.

Family members say Haynes suffers from a medical condition that may impair his judgement. If anyone has information regarding the whereabouts of Charlie H. Haynes Jr., call the Holmes County Sheriff’s Department at 662-834-1511.

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U.S. House passes historic bill to legalize marijuana

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East side of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (photo by Martin Falbisoner own-work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed what is being hailed as an historic bill to legalize the use of marijuana in the country.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act proposes to remove marijuana from the list in the Controlled Substances Act of 1971, which first equated pot with drugs such as heroin and LSD. It also proposes to expunge certain low-level criminal offenses, sets up a 5% sales tax on sales to reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by drug enforcement, provide for more research and other measures.

The MORE act was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee a year ago and is the first of its kind to make it to a vote on the House floor. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), was passed Friday by a vote of 228-164 along mostly party lines: 222 Democrats, five Republicans and Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian, voted in support of the bill, while 158 Republicans and six Democrats voted against it.

“Millions of Americans’ lives have been upended as a result of convictions for possessing small amounts of marijuana, and the racial disparities in conviction rates for those offenses are as shocking as they are unjust,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said in a statement after the vote. “That’s why we passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act today.”

A 2020 analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union concluded that “Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates.”

“In every single state, Black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, and in some states, Black people were up to six, eight, or almost 10 times more likely to be arrested,” the analysis continued. “In 31 states, racial disparities were actually larger in 2018 than they were in 2010.”

Democrats in support of the law also cited the growing numbers of states legalizing both medical and recreational uses of marijuana. To date, 34 states have legalized medical marijuana, including Mississippi last month, and 11 have approved it for recreational use.

In response, critics of the bill attacked Democrats for bring the bill up during the COVID-19 pandemic and cited law-and-order arguments.

“Marijuana is one of the most abused substances on this planet,” said Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.). “Yes, legalizing weed would create revenue from taxes, but at what cost? Do we then start legalizing cocaine? Marijuana is a gateway drug, make no mistake about that. It undoubtedly leads to further and much more dangerous drug use.”

It is unlikely the bill will be brought to a vote in the U.S. Senate.

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