Jody Owens on Reforming Mississippi’s Broken Legal System

Jody Owens has taken a unique approach to the role of DA. His goal is to decrease incarceration with a shift in focus. Instead of measuring success by the number of arrests or convictions, Jody Owens measures it by the safety of Hinds county. He believes that the path to safety is changing Mississippi’s broken legal system. 

Jody Owens has several methods for reforming the Mississippi legal system. He states that drug addiction and mental illness should be treated as medical issues, not criminal ones. Prisons are being used as a means of dealing with these issues, even when other methods are actually more effective at increasing the safety of communities. 

According to Jody Owens, prosecutors are failing the people they are meant to serve. He states that the prosecutor’s job doesn’t end with a conviction, but begins with it. There’s a cycle of children following in their father’s footsteps, and the system has done very little to prevent it.

He explains "The system was never fair for defendants. It’s also not helping victims because victims are continuing to be victimized because you’re creating a new level of defendants and individuals who will commit crimes."

Jody Owens wants to put more power into the hands of the community by giving them an opportunity to resolve problems. Programs like mediation, impact panels, and teen courts can help break the cycle of the penal system. They give victims a voice, allowing them to speak for themselves instead of a prosecutor speaking for them. They allow perpetrators to see the impact their crime has. Restitution can help both parties move on from the incident without creating more problems than it solves. 

Bail is another issue Jody Owens is passionate about. He states that "The usage of bail and bond fees in Mississippi, particularly in Hinds County, is often used to punish individuals who are poor." He goes on to explain that many individuals remain incarcerated because they are too poor to post bail, not because they have been found guilty of a crime. He is advocating for use of cash bail only in cases where the accused poses an actual flight risk or threat to the safety of the community.

Jody Owens worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center for eight years before becoming the Hinds County DA. While his role has changed, his passion for justice and the betterment of the community as a whole has not.