Vote @ bestofjackson.com until Dec. 15 Vol. 9 | No. 12 //december 1 - 7, 2010
THE HABIT OF
HERRERA, P 23
JEWELRY, KITCHEN, GENTS, HOSTS PP 43-47
Rush to Judgment The Dubious Trend of Trying Kids As Adults Wells and Ladd, pp 14 - 21
December 1 - 7, 2010
December 1 - 7, 2010
9 NO. 12
contents CHRISTI VIVAR; MUGSHOT; SONY PICTURES; MARLON J. IVY
7 Who Pays? The public service commission investigates how utilities pay for their philanthropy.
Mugshot of Tyler Edmonds; cover design by Kristin Brenemen
THIS ISSUE: Kids in Prison
28 31 34 35 37 38 39 43
In laws borne of faulty logic, children as young as 13 can be tried and incarcerated as adults.
.............. Editor’s Note ............................. Talk ...................... Editorial ........................ Stiggers ............................ Zuga ...................... Opinion ..................... Body/Soul .......... Road to Wellness .................. Diversions ......................... 8 Days .................. JFP Events .......................... Music ........... Music Listings ............................. Slate ............................ Astro ............................ Food ........... Fly Gift Guide
wanda collier wilson Nestled in her austerely decorated downtown office, Jackson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau CEO and President Wanda Collier Wilson is no stranger to hard work. Not one to put up a big fuss about the numerous awards and plaques hanging on her walls and sitting on shelves, she speaks with a calm and powerful voice that catches the attention of those around her. In 1983, Collier Wilson started at JCVB as an intern, and over the years has held a variety of positions from secretary to the director and marketing director. She has arranged tours for visitors, managed sales accounts, helped attract clients to Jackson and overseen the organization’s advertising campaign. Collier Wilson, who has spent the last 27 years promoting the city of Jackson, says the complexity of the tourism industry intrigued her, and she wanted to learn all she could about it. “Before working at the visitor’s bureau, I had never thought about tourism and the implications for a community,” she says, adding that tourism contributes to the community by bringing in revenue and giving a city a sense of pride. Collier Wilson is starting to see the fruits of her efforts. “In a few years, Jackson is going to be it,” she says. “No longer will we be trying to become a destination, but we will be a desti-
nation with all the development to come.” The divorced mother of two graduated from Lanier High School and attended Mississippi State University where she studied political science. She was named one of Mississippi’s “50 Leading Business Women” in 2006, and in 2008, she served as president of the Mississippi Tourism Association. The Jackson native says she is looking forward to Jackson’s renaissance and applauds development such as the Farish Street entertainment district. She says she would like to see the Jackson Convention Center expand in the next few years. “If we expand the convention center, I feel it will draw additional events downtown and draw more support and business in the downtown area,” she says. “(Hopefully) we can offer a walking type of venue for planners who are meeting down here.” When Collier Wilson isn’t overseeing her staff or meeting with city officials on upcoming projects, she enjoys her time reading and attending church. “I am a Jacksonian, and I live here by choice,” Wilson says. “I like what I do, and I love living here in Jackson and promoting the city to get people to appreciate the city and all that it has to offer.” —Dominique R. Benson
34 Say It Loud! The Godfather of Soul led an all-star lineup to accompany the “Rumble in the Jungle.”
43 Bling is Best When it comes to melting your honey’s heart, nothing works better than something shiny.
4 7 12 12 12 13 23 24 26
Valerie Wells Valerie Wells is a freelance writer who lives in Hattiesburg. She writes for regional publications. Follow her on Twitter at sehoy13. She co-wrote the cover story.
Brandi Herrera Brandi Herrera, a native of Portland, Ore., is a freelance writer and graduate of Linfield College in Oregon. She enjoys wine and cooking and strives to live as “green” as possible. She wrote the Body/Soul feature.
Katie Stewart Katie Stewart, a Jackson native, works for Imaginary Company, a local design firm. She loves perusing used bookstores and is usually accompanied by a cup of strong coffee. She wrote a food piece and the kitchen gift guide.
Pamela Hosey Pamela Hosey is originally from West Point, Miss. She loves to write, read James Patterson novels and spend time with her family. She coordinated the hostess gift guide.
Phyllis Robinson Phyllis Robinson, aka Peaches, has worked in every facet of fashion: writing, styling, designing, and modeling. She is the founder of E & E Models of Jackson, for plus size models. She coordinated the jewelry gift guide.
Bryan Flynn Bryan Flynn is a lifelong Mississippi native who resides in Richland. When not working for the JFP, he writes a national blog, playtowinthegame.com. He lives with his wife and their four cats. He wrote the sports feature.
Marlon Ivy Freelance photographer Marlon Ivy is a Mississippi State University alumnus. An instructor told him it would be years before he would be considered a photographer. It doesn’t matter; he prefers the title “Picture Taker” anyway. He photographed the jewelry gift guide.
December 1 - 7, 2010
Advertising designer Lydia Chadwick enjoys crazy, awesome weekends with her husband and two kids. She thrives in the midst of procrastination and prefers eating cereal from a cup instead of a bowl. She designed ads in this issue.
by Donna Ladd, Editor-in-Chief
All God’s Children
ne image won’t leave my head since I finished my part of the cover story I wrote this issue with freelance writer Valerie Wells (starts page 14): A deputy with his foot against a door as a desperate mother tries to get through to be with her 13-year-old son during a police interrogation that will elicit a murder confession that may or may not have any truth to it. Stop for a minute and think about it: What is going on here, folks? How have we created a society where young people arguably get fewer rights than adults? A world where a judge blocks expert testimony that would allow jurors to consider that a child’s confession might be false? A state where kids get thrown into juvenile facilities without decent educational, medical or mental resources, and are often abused worse inside the facility than outside? Have we really become a society where adults don’t care if another person’s child is abused, or railroaded, or sent to a prison where he has to tie something around him because he fears being raped in the shower? Or are we so blinded by fear of “thugs” (or “predators” as they were called a decade ago) that we refuse to face that we are, in fact, creating them? I could blame the media. I spent my graduate-school years and then a six-month fellowship researching the 1990s myths about kids that enabled and popularized horrendous policies against accused children, and the media and politicians that spawned them. Right here in Jackson, I have spent an inordinate amount of my time in recent years reporting stories that other media wouldn’t touch about the young people who lived in the late Mayor Frank Melton’s home with scant supervision that wasn’t overly connected to liquor, showboating, playing with guns and Lord knows what else. I’m still amazed at how hard it was to get people, especially those in charge of overseeing “foster” situations, interested in the children’s welfare in that bizarre saga. It was as if people didn’t give a damn what was going on at 2 Carter’s Grove because the kids there were assumed to be throwaway thugs until a folkhero businessman opened his home to them. I also infuriate some people because I dare to challenge our “local” media’s either-or propensity toward images of white people as the “VIPs” and black folks, especially kids, as the thugs (or blaming the parents who don’t stop the thuggery), not to mention the media trick of flashing urban schools like Lanier on the screen when something bad happens anywhere near by. No doubt: The media helped create this disastrous state for young people and are doing way too little to change it. (I heard one editor recently throw his hands up in front of a group of children’s advocates and declare that it was “up to the parents,” as if every person in the room didn’t know that the parents play a vital role, as do the rest of us.) In the 1990s, a group of drug warriors grabbed the media by the ear and dragged
them right into a trap set to target black urban youth. As we discuss in our cover story, the “super-predator” myth swept the nation as outlets from the Boston Globe to Newsweek, and politicians from Bob Dole to Orrin Hatch, spread predictions that the largely black (their words) population of “super-predators” would explode by 270,000 young criminals by this year. (Based on population figures, this meant that as many “thugs” would have to be under age 6 as over 13, but the media outlets didn’t bother with calculators or, apparently, factchecking before passing along the predictions as fact.) This hysteria came, by the way, as the nation was enjoying a post-crack-era 68 percent drop in youth homicides, headed toward the lowest youth-crime rate in 25 years. But the meme caught on, spread by the media and politicians trying to get votes on the backs of kids. The only answer, according to the book “Body Count” (a racist polemic I have grown to loathe over the years) was to blame the parents while calling for some of the harshest juvenile-crime policies in the world. These politicians played the fear card hard when it convinced the public that the only way to guard us all from the “predators” was to pass tough laws requiring accused children to be treated (and often mistreated) like adults. America fell for it and, as a result, we have policies across the nation that are abusing young people, as well as turning many of them into more hardened criminals. Here in Mississippi, we already had a miserable youthdetention system that allowed, and allows, simply unfathomable abuses of young people (mostly of color; white kids who get in trouble are more likely to avoid detention in our state, sometimes because their parents know the
right district attorney) with politicians turning their heads. Now, we have treat-em-like-adults scenarios like those we detail in this week’s cover story. There at least would be an argument for this scenario if it wasn’t bona fide fact at this point that children in those situations are more likely to lie to please the adults trying to get them to confess to something bad (we teach them to obey grown-ups, you know). And when they’re held in these über-stressful situations for hours, they will often lie just to get out of the room. Their attention spans are short, and science proves that their brains aren’t developed enough to understand the consequences of a lie, even one that can land them in prison. I’m not sugarcoating anything here: Young people commit crimes. They always have. Some of them are heinous. What I am saying is that it doesn’t make a lick of sense to keep up policies that are actually detrimental to children, families and the rest of society. It is downright stupid to support adult incarceration of youth when it actually makes our society less safe. And, I must add, there is a special cellblock in hell for a politician who trolls for votes on the back of a child. If my research on the criminalization of youth taught me anything, it is this: These harsher policies came about because of fear of people of color, and they are hurting all kids, regardless of race. It is not one or the other; it is both. The politicians and their media created this disaster; it is up to the rest of us to fix it. It is time to stand up for all of God’s children. This column is named for a remarkable book on the complexities of youth justice: Fox Butterfield’s “The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence.”
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PSC Examining Charitable Contributions
ississippi Public Service Commissioners Brandon Presley and Lynn Posey say they want to limit ratepayers funding charitable donations given by utility companies. Presley said state law allows utility companies like Mississippi Power Company, Entergy Mississippi and TVA to donate money to various organizations, but he complains that it also allows the company to categorize such donations as business expenses, which can be funded through the company’s major source of revenue: its ratepayers. “Companies shouldn’t be able to go around spreading goodwill in their name and then turn around and take that money out of the pockets of the ratepayers. It should come from the shareholders,” said Presley, who supported the PSC’s decision to open a docket to investigate the contribution process this month. “I don’t think ratepayers, who have no choice but to pay their bills, should have to pay for these contributions.” Posey said companies dish out charitable contributions, but then approach the commission with reimbursement requests for their donations, paid for through what Posey describes as “minute” rate increases to customers’ monthly utility bills. “The average charitable … contributions that Entergy makes amounts to about 6 cents per month per 1,000 kilowatt user, I think. Mississippi Power is maybe 7.6 cents. It’s a bunch of money, but it’s very little per
ratepayer. It hardly affects rates, averaging 6 cents per month for a customer using a 1,000 kilowatt hours. It’s minute, but we’re still getting ready to scrutinize these things even so,” Posey said.
The Mississippi Public Service Commission is considering ways to restrict contributions a utility company like Entergy can make with ratepayers’ funds.
Posey said the PSC’s sister agency, the Public Utilities Staff, has recommended disallowing contribution reimbursement requests, meaning utility companies are gambling every time they shell out a donation if they expect a reimbursement, but that hasn’t stopped them from being generous. In 2009, for example, Entergy Mississippi invested $100,000 in the statewide early childhood education program Mississippi Building Blocks, which serves about 50 child-
by Adam Lynch
care centers and 150 early education classrooms throughout the state. The company plans to invest another $200,000 by 2011. Entergy Mississippi also pledged $500,000 to Jackson State University’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology, and delivered another $50,000 check to the university in September. Mississippi Power announced a $500,000 commitment to Mississippi State University’s Bagley College of Engineering in September. MSU announced in October that 100 “economically challenged” students would receive $250,000 in tuition aid courtesy of Entergy Mississippi. Entergy Mississippi spokeswoman Mara Hartmann said an Entergy contribution committee—composed of employees and some executives—examines contribution requests from non-profits, universities and other organizations, and allots money based on the company’s focus of improving education, helping low-income and disabled customers, and improving the environment. Despite the appeal of the donations, Posey and Presley want the donation process scrutinized and may require companies to fund future contributions through stockholders rather than rate increases. “With economic times being what they are, we decided to take a closer look,” Posey said. PSC Executive Director John Waites DONATIONS, see page 8
Kenny Stokes to Bristol Palin by Ward Schaefer
This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Banquet, organized by Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes, honored Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Lonnie Edwards as its 2010 Man of the Year. Edwards was once a guest on “Sally,” the talk show hosted by Sally Jessy Raphael, who made a 2004 cameo appearance with comedian Dave Chappelle on “Chappelle’s Show.” Chappelle’s “Block Party” concert and documentary saw Lauryn Hill reunite with her old group, The Fugees. Hill got her big break in “Sister Act 2,” with Whoopi Goldberg, who later went on to co-host “The View,” which featured Bristol Palin in a June 2010 show.
quack “As science, like the law, evolves over time, one generation’s expert is another’s quack.” —Former Mississippi Supreme Court Judge Oliver Diaz, writing about Dr. Steven Hayne’s testimony in Tyler Edmonds v. The State of Mississippi.
Wednesday, Nov. 24 The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announces plans to end the use of the color-coded terrorism alert system and replace it with one that is more effective and specific. … Chokwe Lumumba, Jackson city councilman and lawyer for the Scott sisters, delivers 24,000 signatures calling for the release of the sisters to Gov. Barbour. Thursday, Nov. 25 Two Poles and a Swede are charged with the theft of the “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work will make you free) sign stolen from Auschwitz last December. If convicted, the trio could face up to three years in prison. … Two men are arrested for stealing a Lamborghini from a Jackson Walmart. Friday, Nov. 26 Russia says it will miss the 2012 deadline to destroy their chemical weapons from the Cold War era. … Auburn defeats Alabama 28-27 in the Iron Bowl. Saturday, Nov. 27 In Ireland, thousands of people gather in Dublin to protest cuts to welfare programs and public jobs. The cuts are part of the country’s austerity program, designed to rescue Ireland’s economy. … Ole Miss falls to Mississippi State 23-31 in the Egg Bowl. Sunday, Nov. 28 Police in Rio De Janeiro say they successfully took over the Alemao slum, ridding it of gang members and drug dealers. This takeover is part of a push by the Brazilian government to secure Rio De Janeiro before they host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. … The U.S. Department of Defense announces that First Lt. William Donnelly IV, a Picayune, Miss., native, was killed in Afghanistan. Monday, Nov. 29 President Obama announces a twoyear pay freeze for federal employees to help reduce the federal deficit. The pay freeze will save $2 billion by September 2011. … Jackson State University’s marching band, is one of eight schools invited to perform at Honda’s Battle of the Bands in January 2011. Tuesday, Nov. 30 The U.S. Senate defeats a proposed ban on earmarks with a 39 to 59 vote. Among eight Republicans voting against the ban is Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran. … Overnight and early morning tornadoes damage property across the state, especially in Yazoo and Starkville.
news, culture & irreverence
Contrary to public perception, violent crime in schools has declined dramatically since 1994. The annual rate of serious violent crime in 2007 (40 per 1,000 students)was less than half of the rate in 1994. These data are victim reports collected as part of the National Crime Victimization Survey and are not derived from school records.
Wes Holsapple’s goal is to nurture and help build businesses in Jackson. p 12
news, culture & irreverence
DONATIONS, from page 7
December 1 - 7, 2010
said utility companies also generate revenue mission.” However, the commission does not through stock sales, and that this is the indi- have a blanket regulation governing the size rect method through which companies can the donations or any circumstances surroundfinance donation costs that are unrecovered ing them. The only PSC rule that addresses by ratepayers. the issue is Rule 22 governing charitable or Theoretically, a stockholder may purchase civic contributions. one share of $20 stock in Mississippi Power’s “Due to the varied sizes and operations parent company Southern Company. The of the utilities regulated by the commission, stock may carry a dividend rate of five percent. contributions will be studied individually to Mississippi Power may pay out anywhere determine allowance as cost of service,” the from 50 to 60 rule states, withpercent of their out issuing any net income in financial limit or dividends to ratepayer comSouthern Commitment cap. pany stockhold Presley said ers. What the Mississippi is company keeps one of only a is called retained few states that alearnings—meanlow utility coming earnings kept panies to seek by the business reimbursement to fund reinvestthrough rate inment in things creases, and cited such as electricLouisiana as the ity poles, power only example he lines, and genknows of a state erators—and that allows for contributions. In the practice. John essence, the busiBethel, executive ness keeps some director of the of its investors’ Entergy spokeswoman Mara Hartmann says Arkansas Public stockholders already hold most of her company’s money for op- donations last year. Service Comerating expenses mission, said his and capital inagency does not vestments, rather than giving it back to them typically include donations in rate increases of as 100 percent dividends. any kind. Hartmann said stockholders already “Those are typically treated below the covered most of her company’s donations last line as a shareholder expense. That’s been the year. “When we took a look at 2009 contri- commission’s practice for a number of years,” butions, it amounted to less than 15 cents Bethel said. “Typically, donations and chariper customer per month. We had a total of table contributions are not included in rates about $3 million in donations that year and approved by the PSC.” $1.3 million came from shareholders. The Alabama PSC spokesman John Free said other $700,000 was recovered under Mis- his state also does not allow utility companies sissippi law and with commission approval,” to charge rate-payers for the cost of donaHartmann said. She added that the company tions, while Texas Public Service Commission never sought to recover $900,000 of the $1.3 spokesman Terry Hadley said his state already million that shareholders carried. The PSC follows Posey’s donation cap suggestion and disallowed reimbursement of $400,000 that does not allow any utility company’s donaEntergy requested, so shareholders, she said, tions to “exceed three-tenths of 1 percent” of funded that amount as well. the company’s gross receipts. While Presley said he would prefer more “With that kind of cap, I can’t see cuscontributions to come directly from company tomers paying even six cents of their monthly stockholders, Posey said he is considering the bill to donations,” Hadley said. idea of capping the percentage of donations Hartmann would not say if limiting ratepayers must accommodate. contributions to stakeholders or capping “Our attorneys are working on a pro- contributions would have an impact on local posed rule, and I think they’ll have a proposed recipients, but said the state needed all the parule suggestion to make soon. We will have tronage it could get, especially considering its hearings and have the (utility) companies economic environment. come in and discuss the proposed rule with “Our state has great needs. We’re the us,” Posey said. poorest state in the country,” Hartmann said. Currently, the PSC has no real prec- “We feel it is very important that we and edent by which to determine reimbursement. other businesses contribute to the communiState law Section 77-3-79 states that “reason- ties we live in. This is corporate responsibility. able charitable or civic contributions shall be It’s not about slapping our name on a sponsorallowed as cost of service,” although these ship. It’s about trying to meet very real, very amounts are “not to exceed amounts estab- serious challenges.” lished by regulations adopted by the com- Comment at jfp.ms.
by Ward Schaefer
Scott Sisters’ Clemency Momentum Growing
upport for imprisoned sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott is growing as an anticipated deadline for their clemency petition nears. The sisters, who are in the 17th year of their double life sentences for armed robbery, have a petition for clemency or pardon pending before Gov. Haley Barbour. Attorney and Jackson Councilman Chokwe Lumumba, who previously handled the sisters’ appeals, filed a petition for clemency or pardon with Barbour Sept. 14. Since then, the NAACP, as well as other national civil-rights organizations—including a coali-
their sentence. Two of the sisters’ three alleged co-conspirators received reduced sentences in return for testifying against them. Within three years of their sentencing, all three of the co-conspirators were released from prison. Lumumba said that he has been in communication with Barbour’s attorney, Lucien Smith, and that he expects a decision on the pardon request soon. “It appears that the government—the governor and the Parole Board—have taken some affirmative steps to at least investigate our position,” Lumumba said. “We expect an answer in the near future.” Investigators from the state Parole Board have spoken with the sisters at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility at least three times, according to Nancy Lockhart, an activist who is in regular phone contact with the Scotts. Lumumba said that he has also discussed the case with investigators, and he believes the governor has enlisted the help of the Parole Board to investigate the case and deliver a recommendation on the pardon request. “We’ve heard that the Parole Board would deal with their recommendation by the end of the year,” he said.
State law does not require Barbour to seek a recommendation from the Parole Board, however. This past winter, a bill that would have required the Parole Board to make a non-binding recommendation in advance of any gubernatorial pardon died in the state Legislature. Rep. Brandon C. Jones, D-Pascagoula, authored the bill in response to Barbour’s controversial pardons of five murderers who worked in the governor’s mansion as trustys, four of them for domestic murders, as revealed by the Jackson Free Press in 2008. The House of Representatives passed the bill by a 115-5 vote, but the measure died in the Senate. Support for the sisters’ release has grown dramatically this year, spurred in large part by the urgency of Jamie Scott’s health problems. In January, doctors diagnosed her with kidney failure, a result of untreated diabetes. Since then, prison staff has periodically rushed her to the hospital because of infections and other complications. Jamie is currently suffering from severe headaches and blurry vision, Lockhart says, another side effect of her diabetes. Lockhart has asked prison staff to prescribe Jamie glasses, but she has yet to receive them.
PA I D A DV E RT I S E M E N T
oom Service started off in 1986 as little more than a salad vending service. Now, more than 25 years later, Owner Herbert Hays Thompson has creating mouth-watering specialties in a short time span down to a science. For example, they made 954 sandwiches in a two-hour period. Of course, Hays is usually one to turn down news articles, and even proposed book deals, because he is of the school of anti-self-promotion. The food at Room Service speaks for itself from Owner Herbert Hays Thompson the 25 salad dressings to 31 different salads. You can see them yourself on Room Service’s hand-written menu. Don’t call and ask them to give you the list over the phone. Seriously. You won’t be eating lunch that day if you do. Along with your appetite, bring your sense of humor, or you might not be able to handle the obnoxious atmosphere of Room Service located at 4107 Northview Drive in Jackson. “When asked what is special on the menu, everything is special,” says Hays. “The sandwiches and salads are all the same price, too—$7.34 plus tax totals to $8. Anything on the menu is one price.” You won’t be able to ﬁght the temptation to order just one menu item. The Uptown Sammie is dressed with grilled chicken, cranberries, blue cheese, pecans, red onion, tomato and lettuce. The Washington Salad is a favorite, with chicken, bacon, egg, grapes, walnuts, raisins, sunﬂower seeds, mushrooms, bagel chips and lettuce. The sammies come on whatever you want, just be nice when you are ordering or…well, you know. Varieties of bread include French, croissant, honeywheat, white, King’s Bread, pumpernickel, Sugarbusters, Texas toast, and rye. Fax (601-362-4657), call (601-362-4617) or e-mail (roomservice96657@ bellsouth.net) your orders in the day before your ofﬁce or business wants them, or you can place your order at 7:30 a.m. the day of. They will deliver salads, soups, and sammies to businesses and ofﬁces (if you haven’t made the “Don’t Take Their Order List”) only Monday - Friday for lunch, but they are open 9 a.m. til 1:30 p.m. Monday - Friday. (Visit www.roomservicejackson.com to see their menu online.) Want a ﬂashback to your younger school days? Try their brownies sprinkled with powdered sugar, affectionately known as a secret & personal addiction for some customers. Hays says that customers also get stingy with the sweet pickles and chicken salad. Learn to share or buy your own—they sell them in quarts and pints.
Attorney Chokwe Lumumba delivered a petition with 24,000 signatures to Gov. Haley Barbour’s office Nov. 24.
tion of Mississippi Freedom Riders—have joined the call for their release. On Nov. 24, Lumumba delivered to Barbour’s office a stack of papers bearing the names of 24,000 people who signed an online petition for their release issued by the NAACP. He also carried another 1,500 letters of support that he received personally at his law office. Among the new crop of supporters was Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, who reviewed the sisters’ case and pledged his support in a separate letter. “The Scott sisters do not have a previous criminal history, which is at least a hint that they were most likely law-abiding citizens for most of their adult life,” Smith wrote. “Consequently, they do not have the profile of those who exhibit predatory behavior or aggressive conduct towards criminality.” Jamie and Gladys are serving life sentences for allegedly masterminding a 1993 armed robbery, when they were 21 and 19, respectively. Estimates of the amount allegedly stolen range from $11 to a little more than $200. The sisters have maintained their innocence, as have many of their supporters, but the pardon petition and recent groundswell of support have focused on the severity of
by Adam Lynch
Donations for Exemption?
In 1998, legislators passed the Check Cashers Act, which exempts payday lenders from a 36 percent annual-percentage-rate cap on loans less than $1,000. Under the exemption, check-cashing operations can charge customers a $21.95 lending fee per $100 loan—which are typically due within two to four weeks. The Mississippi Department of Banking and Consumer Finance calculates the fee into an annual percentage rate (APR) of 572.26 percent. amile wilson
December 1 - 7, 2010
1935 Lakeland Dr. 601.906.2253
he Mississippi Center for Justice says short-term lenders donate heavily to legislative banking committee chairmen in hopes of extending an exemption allowing them to charge up to $21.95 for every $100 loaned. Short-term lenders comprised 10 of 21 donations Senate Business and Financial Institutions Committee Chairman Gary Jackson, R-French Camp reported from January to December in 2008, a total of $5,100 out of his total $14,700 for that period. House Banking Committee Chairman George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, meanwhile, reported $4,900 out of his $8,1000 total contributions from short-term lenders in 2008 and $5,100 out of his $43,675 total contributions from short-term lenders in 2009. “It’s the history of the industry to contribute to political campaigns in an effort to secure their special exception to the Small Loan Act. It would be expected to see an increase in contributions due to the fact that this exception, which expires in 2012, will see legislative action in the upcoming session,” said Mississippi Center for Justice Advocacy Director Beth Orlansky. “Basically, they are protecting the way the industry conducts business in the state of Mississippi.” Orlansky said MCJ does not donate money to campaigns. Flaggs said the suggestion of donors influencing his vote on the bill was an “attack” on his character. “The question is an insult to me. ... I take campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies, and yet I voted against their interests. I’ve been in the Legislature for 23 years, and I’ve always voted on the merits of the issue.” The representative defended the $21.95 fee, reiterating the lenders’ position that they can’t stay in business if their exemption expires. He said the $21.95 fee compares favorably to credit-card companies’ fines and fees that grow considerably when they become delinquent. He said the fee also compares favorably to the cost of re-activating cell phone and electricity service. Jackson did not return calls.
Opponents to short-term lending say the industry donates to legislative bankingcommittee leaders, like Rep. George Flaggs.
Jamie Fulmer, vice president of public affairs for Advance America, said the APR is not a fair translation of the interest rate, however, considering the short lifespans of the loans, which, under Mississippi law, cannot last a whole year or charge more than 18 percent simple interest. “An APR calculation isn’t how a consumer values it. In order to pay a (572 APR), the consumer would have to take out that loan every two weeks for an entire year,” Fulmer said. “On average, they use us between seven and eight times a year.” The exemption is temporary and set to
Jesse Gallagher Sarah J Griff Howard Lori Carpenter Scroggins Ginger Rankin Brock Freeman
expire July 2012. Payday lending advocates say most payday lenders can’t stay in business charging 36 percent APR on $100 loans. Fulmer says that capping the APR at 36 percent pushes a short-term loan into an incompatible unit of measurement, which would amount to an unsustainable fee of $1.38 per every $100 loaned, he said. To get a short-term payday loan, a borrower hands a payday lender a personal check, which the lender holds until the loan’s due date. In exchange, the borrower receives cash from the lender, minus the lender’s fees. Companies like Advance America, on Ellis Avenue, offer a $330 maximum payday loan, requiring a fee of about $60. The lender typically holds the borrower’s check for about two weeks—the length of a regular pay period—and will deposit the customer’s check at the end of the period, as per the contract. The practice puts the borrower at risk of bank overdraft charges, as well as a lender fee up to $30, if they don’t have the money in the bank to cover the draft. Under state law, borrowers may not extend the same loan, but Orlansky argues that some payday borrowers begin a cycle of taking out subsequent loans with different payday lending companies to fund previous loans. Borrowing $300 can accrue $65.85 in fees. If the borrower takes out eight $300 loans, he is looking at up to $526.80 in fees. Flaggs said he was going to hold a hearing next year where both sides of the argument can debate a bill scribed by Mississippi Department of Banking and Consumer Finance Commissioner John Allison. “It’s not even going to be my bill. It’s going to be a bill put together by the state banking commission, which licenses (short-term lenders),” Flaggs said. Allison said it was too early to submit any bill recommendation but said the existing statute will be tweaked in a number of ways. “There will be several introductions out there, although I don’t know what all they’re going to be,” Allison said. Comment at jfp.ms.
Now a Paul Mitchell signature salon.
775 Lake Harbour Drive #H in Ridgeland 601.856.4330 | fax: 601.856.4505
by Lacey McLaughlin
Venture Incubator Executive Director Wes Holsapple wants to create a hub for small business entrepreneurs.
s Wes Holsapple II walks through the soon-to-be filled offices on the second floor of the Regions Plaza building on Thanksgiving eve, his mind is far from turkey and stuffing. As the executive director of the Venture Incubator, Holsapple is focused on creating a hub to help small business owners flourish. Earlier this year, Downtown Jackson Partners created the nonprofit and provided funds for its start up. Cities such as Little Rock, Birmingham and Baton Rouge have created business incubators. If Holsapple has his way, about 60 Jackson businesses will use the Capitol Street space by the end of the second quarter of 2011. The incubator has different levels of membership, and clients can lease an office or use the organization for training, development and networking. The Nashville native moved to Jackson in the early 1980s and has worked as an area manager and trainer for Dale Carnegie & Associates, a global self-improvement and professional training company. Holsapple, 48, also owned a Business Networking International franchise until 2005. What is the incubatorâ€™s goal? Businesses that get started often times have a very high failure rate. Many times itâ€™s because they donâ€™t have the capital to get started. They donâ€™t have the money it takes to have an office facility, and also they (may)
What is your role? My role is to tell the story of the incubator to the community and also to businesses. (My role) is to help them get in, and then contact corporations like Entergy and other companies and say: â€œWe have this many people wanting to start small businesses in the area. They want to come to the area because they believe in it. Would you be willing to help us with our operating expenses?â€? And since we operate as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, our focus, as with all incubators, is to lower the expenses of our new business clients. How is the incubator different from other business-development groups? At Jackson State Universityâ€™s small business-development center, (clients) have an office. â€Ś But they also get use of the conference room and the copier and the receptionist and all those shared services. These businesses can lower their cost, but they donâ€™t have the benefit of training and development. â€Ś (The Mississippi e-Center at JSU) is primarily tech focused, so someone who wants to start a janitor business, the e-Center is probably not a good fit. What are some skills that small business owners need to succeed? A lot of people have a dream, they have an idea, they are enthusiastic about it, but they donâ€™t have a business plan that talks about how they are going to accomplish what they want to do. Who else needs to be involved? What about financing, cash-flow projects? Who is your market, and how are they different? â€Ś Can they give a 30-second elevator talk? There has to be a compelling message that these business owners are using to grow their business.
What are the pros and cons of starting a small business in Jackson? The positive side is that we have such a diverse industry of government, education and medical that those types of industries arenâ€™t going to suffer the ups and downs like Detroit that has the automobile industry. ... Jackson has consistently ranked high as a good place to start a business, raise a family and get an education. I think there is a tendency that Mississippi has been kicked so long that the attitude is: â€œLetâ€™s find something to kick. And, oh, look. Thereâ€™s Mississippi.â€? â€Ś I think one of the challenges is that we donâ€™t tell our story well, and thatâ€™s something we need improvement on. What happens when clients want to expand their businesses? It depends on the client. There might a person that comes to us and says, â€œI have an office in my home in Clinton, but I would love to have an office downtown and meet clients in a conference room.â€? For $250 a month, they can do that, plus they can get all the training, development. This is not a moneymaking thing. We are a nonprofit. Every decision we make is on how we can help the clients succeed. We want them in one to three years to graduate out. â€Ś But letâ€™s say that a client starts as a sole proprietor and then needs to hire people. Now would be a good time to move out of the incubator, but they can stay as an affiliate and get the training they need. What advice do you have for people who have a plan but lack financing? If someone comes to me and needs help with financing, I pick up the phone and introduce (him or her) to the folks they need to be involved with. â€Ś Every day there are new opportunities coming around. There is new money that is being made available but you just have to meet certain requirements. But if you donâ€™t know those requirements, or if you donâ€™t know how to get started in meeting those requirements, then the money is inaccessible. For information about the Venture Incubator, visit ventureincubator.org.
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have the coaching, training and mentoring that colleges teach, but the implementation of it isnâ€™t there. So what we are doing is building a community of successful business people to bring those folks together, for each of them to contribute their genius to the clients in our facility.
opining, grousing & pontificating
You Get What You Pay For
he confluence of two events brought home hard truths about the values that some Mississippians seem to hold dear: The first was Gov. Haley Barbour’s budget recommendations for fiscal year 2012, which mandated cuts in nearly every area of state spending—education at all levels, Medicaid and the state Health Department among them—with the glaring exception of economic development and prisons. The second was our cover story this week about children being tried as adults and, subsequently, incarcerated in sub-standard facilities, or thrown in with hardened criminals in adult prisons. An outsider in could deduce from those events that that thing we hold most dear is putting away criminals—our oft-repeated “tough on crime” stance—to the detriment of nearly everything else. Except, perhaps, business development. No doubt, looked at through the myopic lens of “no tax increase” policies and our current unemployment picture, business development must be heavily subsidized and state funded. Corporate welfare has become so ubiquitous that most of us don’t give it a second thought. The issue of prisons is another story altogether. The facts don’t lie: As a result of America’s love affair with incarceration and our nation’s longest-running “war” (against drugs), one out of every 100 Americans was behind bars as of 2008. With nearly 2.5 million Americans locked up, many for drug offenses, the land of free has the highest rate of incarcerations in the world. The fact that private prisons are a multi-billion-dollar growth industry is a symptom of a skewed system of justice. The fact that we classify some 13- and 14-year-old children in the same way that we do adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s is symptomatic of a system slightly berserk. The fact that we allow prosecutors like Forrest Allgood to use different evidence in related trials (as he did in the trials of Tyler Edmonds and his sister, Kristi Fulgham) and to employ questionable testimony like that of disgraced forensic pathologist Steven Hayne is indicative of our crazed, nonsensical longing to feel secure at any cost. We keep dragging out our short-term solutions because we cannot, under any circumstances, admit that they don’t work. While we’re pouring our treasure into more and bigger prisons, better security technology and tougher laws, our children are the ultimate losers. Somehow, we have yet to admit that our lagging educational standards—the U.S. is nowhere near the leader in education that it is in convicts—are connected to the cradle-to-prison pipeline. We’ve seen some signs that lawmakers are attempting the turn this particular Titanic around, but so far, the efforts are feeble. And progress is continually challenged by the coterie of “tough on crime” politicians like our own governor. It’s time to put our resources in the correct end of the high crime, high prison-population equation. That’s education, folks, starting with pre-kindergarten all the way through university. There is no better time than now to start.
Year-End Financial Dilemma
December 1 - 7, 2010
udy McBride: “Now that Thanksgiving and Black Friday have passed, how do you feel today? You’ve spent your hard-earned money on a few days of happiness. The leftover food is gone. Money in your checking account is low, and you need to earn more money from a temporary, second job to help pay those nagging pre-holiday bills. “Financially challenged customers, don’t worry. The Let Me Hold Five Dollars National Bank staff understands your year-end financial dilemma. “Nevertheless, my bank executives and I did not add any of the ‘Ghetto Stimulus Package’ money to our salaries. Therefore, we have plenty of money left over from the stimulus package, and we want to assist those struggling with their holiday finances. “For families, individuals or couples on the verge of home foreclosure, the L.M.H.F.D. national bank can provide a ‘Please Give Us One More Month Anti-Foreclosure Loan’ that will temporarily stop the Finance Pimp from taking his home back. “Need some cash to keep the family vehicle running? We have a ‘Fix That Hoopty Loan.’ After you receive your cash, take your broken-down ride to Rev. Cletus’ Car Sales Church and let ‘Big Deacon’ Jones do the repairs. “No money in the budget to buy gifts for the family? Get a ‘Budget Supplement’ loan. This is not a bunch of B.S.; it’s a loan to help you make it through the holiday season. “And remember the L.M.H.F.D. motto: We’ll let you hold five dollars, but you got to pay us back.”
Noise from the blogs @jacksonfreepress.com
“Bluntson and Lumumba Square Off” “Every time Bluntson opens his mouth, he shows how ill informed and incompetent he is. Lumumba is following exactly what his platform was when he ran for City Council. He told the voters of Ward 2 that he wanted to see more black Jackson businesses getting city contracts and more black Jackson workers being employed by any contractor doing business with the city. This would have the effect of increasing the incomes of Jackson residents and keeping more of the money the city spends in Jackson. How Blunstson can disagree with this philosophy defies credibility, unless he just does not understand. —Wellington “I don’t see anything wrong with asking who the contracts are going out to. Asking that minorities be able to participate in the bidding and city projects is not the same as mandating. We just want a seat at the table.” —dd39203 “Yes, we want a seat at the table; however, Lumumba, in my opinion, should join the table—not interrupt it. Lumumba
represents the ward I live in. Unfortunately, we did not have a person running for the office that I felt good about. My comment does not have anything to do with how right or wrong Lumumba is; I just know that he seemingly stays racially charged and with some of that fire, ready, aim behavior.” —Justjess “People are confused in this city. First, we want to address racial imbalances, but then we don’t want to. I don’t get it. Why is it the norm around these parts to just not speak about it? I think it’s high time someone steps in to look after those of us who populate the majority in this city. So often, we are overlooked and unwelcome. —Queen601 “For the record, it is widely known that some city employees campaigned for Melton’s re-election on the city’s dime. If this practice is continuing, it needs to be investigated and stopped. Lumumba is right to look closer if there is evidence to back it up.” —Donna Ladd
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Save Fondren’s Main Street
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few weeks ago I went to Perfect Fit Alterations and enjoyed visiting while trying on pants to be hemmed. Then I walked next door to Jackson Shoe Repair where I took two pairs of shoes to get some TLC. Next, I walked to Wells Cleaners where I picked up a pile of dry cleaning and left another for next week. Three days prior, I had bought a birthday cake at Campbell’s Bakery, and each week I try to be a regular at Butterfly Yoga. Having finished my errands, I walked to Fondren Corner where I have proudly had an office for the past five years. Upon entering my suite, I told an office mate how much I appreciated having friendly businesses conveniently across the street. I described how much I loved living and working in a neighborhood that offers such urban options in a district that continues to thrive throughout the decades. Spoke too soon, I did. Fast-forward three days and “Whitney Place to Rebuild Fondren” comes out in the Jackson Free Press. I had heard rumblings of development in the district, but I completely missed the boat on the extent of the vision until reading the article. It was as though I had been struck down by horrible news. I was inconsolable. I sought out Fondrenites for their opinions, and they seemed resigned to the idea. There was disappointment with having to say goodbye to the face of Fondren, but acceptance because the buildings are in such terrible shape. I immediately thought of The Cedars and how we helped to save it several years ago. My husband and I were just starting out professionally, but we scraped together what we could to support the cause. When we received a second letter that said, “we are not there, yet,” we did it again, because saving The Cedars was a priority. More zero-lot-line town homes or the oldest residence in Jackson? Choice “B” please. Now, The Cedars is a social and cultural center. When I think about how those striving for its preservation had to stand against “development,” I remain amazed to realize how easily The Cedars could have been discarded. I was shocked to hear that there was no momentum to preserve Fondren’s “Main Street.” Then I dug a little deeper. I approached some of the business owners asking, “So what do you think about Whitney Place?” My crestfallen state was transformed. The business owners I spoke with are adamantly opposed to the plan. Some, but not all, of the buildings have been purchased for the development. The current owner has done a great job of upkeep on
the circa-1938 buildings. Perhaps some of the other buildings have structural damage, but not those rented by the business owners with whom I spoke. The JFP article made Whitney Place sound like a done deal, but opposition does, in fact, exist. Those I spoke with do not want people to think their buildings are unsound, and they want to stay right where they are. Development is essential for progress. But history and preservation are essential for humankind. We travel to historic places to see the sights because they are something to behold. They are timeless; they move us. Fondren’s main street may not be a historical sight now, but if it is torn down, it never will be. Places like this are dying out. When you drive through Flora or Canton, you smile and say “look how quaint” and have a feeling of connectedness with the people who were there before. The buildings in the Fondren strip continue to do good business. They are not simply a sentimental but failing reminder of what once was—they still are. Those of us who appreciate historic preservation and vernacular architecture see ourselves as stewards of structures that have stood over time. I have lived in Fondren for 10 years, and my home was built in the 1930s. I’ll fill in cracks in the plaster and repaint, and eight months later there is a hint of a crack returning. The patina on the banister is lighter where all the hands have grabbed it over the years. I have a lot of expense in maintenance, but I will pay and would not trade if I could. Preservation can be incorporated into development. Look at Duling. The old school was preserved and recreated into beautiful space. The new part, Fondren Place, is modern and exciting. The developers gave care to replicate the bricks of Duling School to connect the old and the new. This makes sense. This is thoughtful development. Others feel the way I do. I do not suggest that development be squelched. I do, however, think there should be conversation with members of the community and those whom the proposal affects. The people of Fondren should have a more active voice in the development of their neighborhood. My e-mail address is arinclarkadkins@ gmail.com, and I invite a conversation. Arin Clark Adkins lives in Fondren with husband, David, and sons Dex and Will. She is a Millsaps College graduate with a master’s in social work from University of Southern Mississippi. An attorney, Adkins is a partner in her family firm, Clark & Clark.
Preservation can be incorporated into development. Look at Duling.
Editor in Chief Donna Ladd Publisher Todd Stauffer
Rush to Judgment
The Dubious Trend of Trying Kids As Adults by Valerie Wells and Donna Ladd
December 1 - 7, 2010
yler Wayne Edmonds took his last seventh-grade exam at Fifth Street Junior High School in West Point on a Thursday and was confident he had done well. So far, 2003 had turned out to be a pretty good year for the 13-year-old skinny honors student with short hair and big eyes. The boy wasn’t one to get in trouble, and he liked to play the trumpet. He also enjoyed hanging out with his half-sister Kristi Fulgham and going to her house in the Longview community a few miles west of Starkville, which he did every other weekend. Edmonds idealized Fulgham, then 26. She was older, married and cool. When he visited her and her husband’s house, he could eat junk food and stay up too late. They’d listen to the radio together and play with her three young children. He didn’t get fussed at. At home, his mother made him do chores, made him do homework. This was a new retreat for Edmonds. He had only gotten to know his half-sister in the past year. They grew close fast. Kristi, who had a different mother, could arrange it so Edmonds could visit their father, Danny Edmonds, without his mother or anyone else knowing. His mother didn’t want the boy near his father who she divorced in 1992. Edmonds did favors for his sister, too—like covering for her with her various boyfriends. He even wrote a school essay called, “I love my sister more than I love myself.” That Friday, May 9, 2003, Fulgham picked Edmonds up after school, shortly before her husband’s stepfather came by to take her three kids for the night. The siblings went 14 out to Subway for dinner, then back to her
house. There, her husband of 12 rocky years, Joey Fulgham, soon went to bed, and Edmonds fell asleep on the floor next to his sister as she worked on the computer. Very early the next morning, May 10, Fulgham loaded Edmonds, as well as a computer CPU and her jewelry, into her car to go down to Biloxi for the weekend. On the way, they picked up her kids about 5 a.m. and then drove to Jackson to get her boyfriend, Kyle Harvey, before going on to the Beau Rivage. While the group played on the beach, dined and bought souvenirs, her husband lay face down in his bed back home, dead from a .22-caliber rifle blast to the back of his head. ‘Mama, Don’t Leave Me Here’ Sunday, May 11, was Mother’s Day. Edmonds called his mother, Sharon Clay, from Biloxi to wish her a happy day. On the trip back from the Coast in the late afternoon, his sister’s cell phone started ringing with the news that Joey Fulgham’s brother, Shannon, had found her husband dead. The brothers worked together at a local car dealership, and they had been paid on Friday. Joey Fulgham had cashed his paycheck for $1,020 and put the money in his wallet. The brothers had planned to attend an air show the next day, on Saturday, but when Shannon showed up at Joey’s house about noon, no one answered the door. When Shannon had not heard from his brother by Sunday afternoon, he cut the screen on the living-room window and entered the home at about 5:30 p.m. He found this murdered brother and called 911. When Oktibbeha County Chief Investigator Robert Elmore arrived at the home, he discovered the victim’s wallet missing but
found no gun or shell casings. He noted that it looked like a computer CPU was missing, due to the outline on the living-room carpet. Authorities soon learned that Kristi Fulgham had gone to Biloxi for the weekend and called her on Monday to come in for questioning. She went voluntarily to the sheriff’s department, where she gave a statement at about 5 p.m., saying that her half-brother, Tyler Edmonds, had shot her husband to protect her from abuse. She had already told him to take the blame for the murder if needed because, as a juvenile, he would not go to jail for it, and she needed to raise her three children. While Fulgham was giving her statement, Edmonds’ mother Sharon Clay learned that the sheriff was looking for her son. She called in about 5:30 p.m., and they said they needed to ask him a few questions. She took him in voluntarily without any sense that he was a suspect. He was still wearing his flannel pajama bottoms, a T-shirt and flip-flops when they arrived at the station about 6 p.m. When authorities asked Clay to sign a waiver of his Miranda rights at 6:23 p.m., she thought it meant that they could only question her son if she was there. She was firm with the deputies. “You can talk to him, but only in my presence,” she instructed. Deputies James Lindsey and Tommy Whitfield began taking the boy’s statement with Clay present. Initially, Edmonds said that he had picked up a gun from his home “to shoot a dog.” He claimed Joey Fulgham was alive when they left, and even waved at them. Edmonds did not know that his sister had already admitted that her husband was dead when they left for the Coast. “So we knew he wasn’t being upfront
with us about what had transpired,” Lindsey said later. They continued asking Edmonds repeatedly, “Are you sure he wasn’t dead?” Clay kept interrupting, saying she would have known had her son “been involved in something like this.” Officers then asked her if they could talk to her son outside her presence. She repeatedly said no. No, no, no. Soon, though, Sheriff Dolph Bryan told the officers to question Edmonds without his mother present. Whitfield took her into the lobby and told her that he didn’t think her son was being honest. Edmonds still had not been charged with any crime, and certainly not a capital crime that would exempt the Youth Court requirement that a child be questioned with a parent present. The officers would not allow Clay back in the room with her son. This was their first mistake. ‘She Don’t Lie to Me’ Mississippi Code, Sec. 43-21-303(3), severely restricts the circumstances in which a child can be taken into custody or interrogated without an order from a youth judge, which was not requested for Edmonds. And if officers believe they can justify detaining a child, then they must do so using “the least restrictive custody.” Furthermore, state law says: “Unless the child is immediately released, the person taking the child into custody shall immediately notify the judge or his designee. A person taking a child into custody shall also make continuing reasonable efforts to notify the child’s parent, guardian or custodian and invite the parent, guardian or custodian to be present during any questioning.”
State law follows the spirit of U.S. Su- bedroom where Joey Fulgham slept. With the confession on tape to back after they returned from the Coast. preme Court decisions, which consistently Edmonds said he held the .22-caliber them up, officers did what Fulgham promised He said his sister asked him then to take warn that juveniles are vulnerable in police rifle that she had asked him to bring to the her kid brother they wouldn’t do if he took the blame and make up a story because, if he interrogations, and often give false confes- back of the victim’s head while she put her the fall—they charged Edmonds with mur- didn’t, he wouldn’t “get to see my kids again.” sions and hurt themselves. “[A] 14-year-old arms around him, and they both squeezed the der, handcuffed him and pulled him away She also told him that they “wouldn’t do anyboy, no matter how sophisticated, is unlikely trigger together from his mother. thing to you because you (are a) minor.” She to have any conception of what will confront “Mama, don’t leave me here,” he begged wanted him to say it was an accident. But The officer also included details that did him when he is made accessible to the police,” not match the crime scene: that he saw blood as deputies took him away. when he confessed, Edmonds did not take the high court wrote in Gallegos v. Colorado. sprinkles on the victim’s white pillowcase after His first of many nights in custody, the the full blame as she had asked. He thought In Haley v. Ohio, the Supreme Court pulling the trigger; crime photos showed no boy slept in a county jail cell where they usu- he was helping his sister avoid the death penwarned: “And when, as here, a mere child— blood and that the sheets weren’t white. ally put the drunks. It smelled like it, too. He alty by sharing the blame with her. an easy victim of the law—is before us, special Interrogations are tricky animals, even As Edmonds finished his confession stared at the concrete block walls and listened care in scrutinizing the record must be used. and while the tape was running, Clay finally to the odd clinks and other noises in the night. when it’s an adult being questioned, but with Age 15 is a tender and difficult age for a boy forced her way into the room to confront a He didn’t sleep. children, they are rife with booby traps, as of any race. He cannot be judged by the more sobbing son who couldn’t stand up, holding Soon, Edmonds would be denied bond prosecutors and judges have learned repeatedexacting standards of maturity.” as authorities built a case to send him to ly since trying kids as adults came into vogue his head in his hands. However, on the night of May 12 in “Tyler!” prison for life, with parole not possible until in the mid-1990s. Starkville, the interrogators of the 13-year-old “Do, do you want him to stop talking 2053, for a murder his sister cooked up. He Beyond the basic moral question of Edmonds were not employing much “spe- to us? Do y’all want to—,” Officer Shannon would sit in jail 14 months before he went to whether children should be treated the same cial care”—believing that state law exempted Williams said to her. trial in 2004. as an adult under any circumstance—whether them from having to Since the 1980s, thousands of kids in allowed to drink alcohol, marry, watch porn, allow his mother to be Mississippi have been tried as adults, and work long hours or be rough-handled the present for his intersame as a 50-yearrogation because they old murderer—is might charge him the problem that with murder later. their confessions Whitfield kept often do not hold Clay in the hall outup in court. Or on side the room, while appeal. Lindsey told Edmonds The reason: that his sister had put Kids often lie the murder on him, when in high-pres“that he was the one sure interrogation that killed Joey.” situations. Edmonds said he Children are didn’t believe she said used to doing what that. Then, Lindsay adults tell them. So said, “Well, would when pressured by you believe her if she a group of adults told you that?” in scary uniforms, Tyler Wayne Edmonds was 13 when “Yes, because I they will often Oktibbeha County locked his mother out of don’t lie to her, and say whatever they his interrogation. she don’t lie to me,” think the cops the boy responded. want to hear. Or The officers then put him in the break “I want to be what they think room with his mother while they went to get here with him. This is their family memFulgham from another room. my child. You have to bers want them to Soon Chief Deputy George Carrithers, understand.” say. Or what they who had interrogated Fulgham, walked into She turned to think will keep the the break room and grabbed Edmonds by the her son, ignoring the real criminal from arm. “We’ll be back in a minute,” he said to officer, and begged to hurting them. Or Clay, not telling her that he was about to have know if he was clear what they think their two suspects talk to each other. on what they were will get them out After the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned his error-ridden conviction and a The officer took Edmonds to Lindsey’s asking. “They’re not of a bad situation jury acquitted him, Edmonds became an EMT in October 2009. office. Fulgham walked in, sat down and told making you say stuff in the next 10 Edmonds to hold her hand. “You need to tell you don’t want to minutes. them what happened. I’ve already told them, say?” she asked, as he shook his head no. hundreds are serving time in the adult system, Even if some prosecutors and police and they know what happened, and you need “Son, just—look, baby, tell me. Look. says Sheila Bedi, deputy legal director of the would rather not know about it, the evidence to tell the truth,” she said to her brother. What’s wrong? What’s wrong, baby, huh?” Southern Poverty Law Center and the former is overwhelming against interrogating chil Officers then took Edmonds to another “I’m telling the truth,” he answered. co-director of the SPLC’s Mississippi Youth dren as if they are adults, even when they’re “OK. What is the truth?” she asked. suspects for “adult” crimes. In 2004, the Famroom to videotape his statement, but without Justice Project, based in Jackson. “That me and Kristi did it.” alerting his mother. At 8:30 p.m., officers read The state has no uniform tracking of ily Justice Center at Northwestern University “Tyler, y’all killed him?” Tyler continued kids tried as adults. In Mississippi, any child School of Law’s Bluhm Legal Clinic submitEdmonds his rights off tape and then on tape. over 13 who commits a felony or uses a fire- ted an amicus brief to the Wisconsin Supreme At 9:30 p.m., he made his statement, with his sobbing, not answering his mother. “Tyler! Tyler Wayne! Son, look at me. arm in a crime automatically is tried in an Court that delineated the problems with the mother in the hallway pounding on the door, yelling to be let in. But a deputy had put his Did you for real do that, or are you just telling adult court, often after a confession that may practice established by a wide variety of rethem that?” or may not be true. searchers: (1) “juveniles do not adequately foot against the door to keep her out. “We done this.” understand their Miranda rights and the “What did y’all do? Oh God, Tyler True Confession ... Or Not? ‘This Is My Baby’ consequences of waiving them and that, in In the confession, Edmonds said that Wayne, are you sure you did this? While in jail and after his court-appoint- making decisions, they tend to comply with “Yes, ma’am.” sometime during the previous Friday night, ed attorney had not shown up in four days, adult authority figures.” (2) Recent medical “Tyler, do you know what that means?” Edmonds called the sheriff himself to recant technology shows that “the area of the brain Fulgham woke him up where he slept on the “Yes ma’am, momma.” floor and put him in one of her kids’ beds. Be- his confession. In his second videotaped con “What—Tyler, what is going on?” tween 3:30 and 4 a.m., the alarm clock went fession, which jurors would not see, Edmonds TRYING KIDS, see page 16 15 “She made me do it.” off. He got up, and then they went into the said he did not know about the murder until jacksonfreepress.com
courtesy patsy brumfield
TRYING KIDS, from page 15
December 1 - 7, 2010
which governs decision making, the weigh- Beware the Super-Predator ing of risks and rewards, and the exercise of Before the mid-1980s, the tough-onjudgment is still developing into the late teen youth policies used against juvenile deyears and early twenties.” (3) “largely as a re- linquents (and their parents) would have sult of new DNA technologies, evidence has shocked the average American. But a violent emerged suggesting that juveniles may be at youth crime surge changed the dynamic. a higher risk than adults of falsely confessing In 1998, the rate for serious violent when pressured by police.” crimes for youth was about the average for the The brief also states that failure “to call previous 25 years—a trend that has continthe parents for the purposes of depriving the ued. Youth property crime actually declined, juvenile of the opportunity to receive advice but one youth category had diverged in a disand counsel” should be considered “strong turbing way from 1985 to 1993: murder. evidence” that coercion was used to elicit the Criminal researchers, including Alfred juvenile’s statements. Blumstein of the National Consortium on The attorneys urged the court to require Violence Research, have explained for years a “per se rule” that would exclude “any state- that the sudden spike in gun killings in the ments obtained from minors when such state- late ’80s and early ’90s (which was true here ments are made without parental, guardian or in Jackson, too) was due to the boom of crack attorney consultation.” markets coupled with increased gun availabil The Mississippi Youth Justice Project ity on the streets. During that time, young made similar arguments in an amicus brief people—largely young black men—were killfiled on behalf of Edmonds’ appeal in 2004. ing each other in record numbers over drug As more and more children are charged, turf wars. Homicides with guns more than and thus handled, like adults, their false con- tripled during those eight years. fessions are H o w e v e r , costing society youth violent resources, not crimes dropped to mention 48 percent by ruining the 1998 as the lives of chilcrack markets dren. One of “stabilized” and the more infapolice made mous examples stronger efforts occurred in to keep guns Northwestern’s out of the hands front yard of juveniles, when two boys, Blumstein reaged 7 and 8, ports. By 2001, were charged FBI Uniform as adults for the Crime Reports rape and murshowed that der of an 11juvenile homiyear-old girl, cides were at Ryan Harris, in their lowest rate Chicago’s Ensince 1966 and Demarious Banyard was 13 when older boys glewood comdropped 56 urged him to try to rob pizza delivery man munity. percent from Robin Ballard, whom he killed. He says he Police brought 1993 to 1998. didn’t mean to. the boys into Meantime, the station without telling their parents they the hysteria kept growing. It was helped along were suspects, kept them there for hours, gave dramatically when a small group of men with them Happy Meals and cajoled them into inordinate power over public opinion (not confessing to the crime. to mention the ability to get quoted any Weeks later, and after the handcuffed time they wanted) essentially declared a war boys’ pictures appeared in media, a crime on youth in the mid-’90s, giving a name to lab ascertained that the semen found on the people’s unease over youth crime and a reason girl matched the DNA of Floyd M. Durr, an to get behind trying kids as adults: the “superadult charged with sexually assaulting three predator.” other young girls in the area. John DiIulio—a conservative Brookings Chicago police had to release the boys, Institution director and Manhattan Institute and ended up paying millions of dollars to the fellow—gave the young enemy that name in boys for wrongful arrest, but the city never ad- 1995. He borrowed from a scientific theory mitted that they were wrong. that says that “super-predators,” human hunt To understand why such an error-prone ers with a thrill of destroying, wiped out large practice has become so popular, and why Ty- animals of prehistoric times. His source was ler Edmonds’ momma and many other par- Northeastern University criminal-justice proents have been routinely locked out of their fessor James Alan Fox who had warned that, children’s interrogations for the past two de- increasingly, many of the young people then cades, one has to turn the clock back more carrying guns would “kill and maim on imthan two decades. pulse, without any intelligible motive.” 16 Blame it on crack. “A 14-year-old with a gun in his hand
is far more menacing than an adult, because a teenager will pull the trigger without fully considering the consequences,” Fox warned. In a now-infamous essay in the Nov. 27, 1995, Weekly Standard, DiIulio argued that these “super-predators” would just keep multiplying and constitute 6 percent of all juveniles by 2010: “By 2005, the number of males in this age group will have risen about 25 percent overall and 50 percent for blacks. To some extent, it’s just that simple: More boys begets more bad boys.” The “super-predator” scare blew up with a Newsweek cover, “Superpredators Arrive” in January 1996 and “Teenage Time Bombs” in U.S. News & World Report in December 1995. Bob Dole used the phrase in his presidential campaign. And within a month of DiIulio’s Weekly Standard piece, Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch used the words to call for harsher treatment of youthful offenders, especially drug users. Hatch continued: “If we do not reverse these trends … our ability to control healthcare costs, reform welfare, improve the academic performance of our school-age children and defuse the crime bomb of youthful superpredators, will all be seriously compromised.” The bogeyman was the perfect excuse for Reagan’s Education Secretary Bill Bennett (George H.W. Bush’s drug czar) and John P. Walters (George W. Bush’s drug czar) to push a war on youth. DiIulio, Bennett and Walters together published the 1996 book, “Body Count: Moral Poverty … and How to Win America’s War Against Crime and Drugs” to back up their dire predictions. The book warned that young black males, especially, were preying on “law-abiding” society and should, thus, be herded out of schools and into jails. “Indeed, the nation’s drug and crime problem is bound to grow over the next ten years, especially among young urban minority males.” Their arguments lacked logic: After saying that the Family Research Council had found that young people in the poorest neighborhoods are at the highest risk for criminal behavior, they rejected outright the idea that economic poverty drove up inner-city crime. Instead, they blamed “moral poverty,” which could be repaired only with a mix of stronger (preferably traditional) families and the most punitive criminal responses for first offenders, including juveniles. “Body Count” played the fear card: “[A]s high as America’s body count is today, a rising tide of youth crime and violence is about to lift it even higher. A new generation of street criminals is upon us—the youngest, biggest and baddest generation any society has ever known.” The rhetoric helped create support for the men’s tough-on-youth policy proposals and shift the country away from a separate justice system for youth. By June 1996, conservatives were pushing hard to reverse the 150-year-old separate juvenile-justice approach to separating juvenile offenders from adult prisoners. Congress introduced bills, such as “The Violent Youth Predator Act of 1996,” to federalize the tougher approaches,
offering block grants to states that took the harshest measures, including mandatory sentences, mug shots, adult interrogations, and penalties for states that refused to prosecute 13- and 14-year-olds as adults. The Sentencing Project warned in 2000: “Fear of out-of-control juvenile crime and a coming generation of ‘super-predators,’ compellingly if erroneously described publicly and to Congress in 1996, has undermined the traditional practice of treating young offenders as different from adult criminals—less culpable because of their age and more amenable to rehabilitation. In recent years, the focus has turned to punishment and in particular to the transfer of increasing numbers of youthful offenders from juvenile to criminal courts.” Growing Criminals Time has proved two major problems with the super-predator scare. For one, it was a myth. The youth crime wave was already reversing before Congress adopted its federal tough-on-youth policies and even before “super-predators” became a catchphrase. Urban crime dropped dramatically as the crack trade slowed down, as did murder by young people. By 2001, the “super-predator” scare had been completely debunked; DiIulio even admitted publicly that it was overblown. And since the “super-predator” hype, criminologist Fox has denounced the kinds of harsh policies that his theory spawned. But the tougher policies didn’t go away. Treating juveniles as adult offenders, and locking parents out of interrogations, became a familiar practice across the country, including in Mississippi, pushed by local, state and federal governments. This was a bipartisan effort: Conservatives may have spread the hysteria, but the Clinton administration supported harsh policy proposals with little-to-no research to support them. Congress gave incentives to states to try most juveniles age 14 or 15 who committed a violent or drug-related crime as adults either automatically or at the sole discretion of the prosecutor. Traditionally, a qualified youth judge had to approve “waivers” that would allow juveniles to be handled in the adult system. Now, a district attorney could easily hang a tough-on-crime re-election campaign on the backs of a child. The American Bar Association took a strong stand against this federal interference and block grants that, it said, would “instead give incentives to states to do just the opposite—to divert their efforts from prevention and intervention to retribution, which has been shown generally not to work.” Thus, the second problem: As the ABA predicted, the tougher juvenile policies have had the opposite effect than their cheerleaders promised. They are turning juvenile delinquents into lifelong criminals. More than a decade after the “predator” scare, reality is showing that when young people are tried as adults and then sentenced to adult facilities, they come out and revert to crime more quickly, committing more serious offenses than those that sent them to the adult
how she had manipulated her kid brother, should have allowed the jury to hear their whom they presented as another victim in the father’s statement: “Danny’s testimony was saga. But in his trial, they fought to block any sufficiently trustworthy because Danny was evidence that both Kristi and would indicate Tyler’s father,” that his adult Justice Bill sister had maWaller Jr. wrote nipulated him for the court. into helping “Surely, he had her kill her husa significant band. reason not to Edmonds’ inculpate Kristi, lawyer, Jim and it is reasonWaide of Tupeable to assume lo, argued that that he would the prosecution not testify that used a false, she made the coerced confesstatements unsion and had less she really convinced the did make the judge to block statements.” testimony from The court an expert on found that exthe pitfalls of cluding the tape adolescent inof “The Montel Kristi Fulgham claims she and her brother killed her husband, Joey Fulgham, because terrogations— Williams Show” he abused her. Others believe she wanted his the kind of was “an abuse of life-insurance money. testimony that discretion.” Edprosecutors of monds was enyoung people fight hard to keep away from titled to make his case to the jury that his sister juries. At the same time, the judge allowed an had motive to kill her husband and cajole him expert for the prosecution to present a com- into helping, and it would not unfairly prejupletely implausible “two-shooter theory” that dice Fulgham in her separate trial. happened to match up well with Edmonds’ “Here, the only direct evidence that Tyler original confession. was involved in Joey’s murder was Kristi’s On cross-examination, now-contro- allegations that Tyler killed Joey and Tyler’s versial medical examiner Steve Hayne stated disputed confession. Tyler had absolutely no that he could tell from looking at the bullet motive to kill Joey other than to please Kristi,” wound that two people had pulled the trigger Waller wrote. together. He did not elaborate on the physIn a concurring opinion, then-Justice Oliics of his theory. Hayne did not respond to ver Diaz Jr. blasted the trial court for allowrequests for an interview for this story. ing Hayne’s “quackspertise” testimony, while The judge also made it clear to the excluding expert testimony on problems with jury that Edmonds, if convicted, could not youth confessions. “Unfortunately, these rules receive the death penalty because he wasn’t were arbitrarily applied when Dr. Hayne was old enough, thereby encouraging them to go allowed to testify to something that no man ahead and convict him. can know, and Tyler was denied the opportu The Mississippi Court of Appeals af- nity to present expert evidence in his defense,” firmed Edmonds’ conviction in 2006, but Diaz wrote. He called the decision “a dishearton Valentine’s Day 2007, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned it, saying that he was TRYING KIDS, see page 18 “denied a constitutionally fair trial.” The court
Fulgham v. Edmonds Authorities never thought Kristi Fulgham was innocent. Even though she tried to put the murder on her little brother, she was arrested for her husband’s murder, too, on
that manic Monday. Turns out she had left a trail of evidence indicating that she might try to kill her husband and then collect his lifeinsurance policy. The Fulghams married when she was in her middle teens. On “The Montel Williams Show” in 2000, she admitted having an affair with Joey’s best friend, who fathered her third child while the pair was married. Joey often told her she would “burn in hell.” And, he said, they fought daily with him telling the audience that he would make her pay for cheating with his friend: “I’m going to remind her of it every moment I get.” Still, he added, he loved her and wanted to make it work. But it didn’t. Fulgham moved out and in with Kyle Harvey in 2001, before returning to live with her husband six months before his murder, supposedly to “work it out.” But she told Harvey that she planned to buy a house for her, Harvey and her kids in Jackson from $300,000 she expected to inherit from her grandmother. In addition to taking the $1,000 in his wallet after he was dead, Fulgham had called the National Guard office where her husband was stationed and asked how much life insurance he had. She was unaware that he had changed the beneficiary on his policy from her to his mother; she believed she would get at least $300,000 if he died. Fulgham had also asked her father, Danny Edmonds, for a pistol so she could kill her husband in his sleep. She told her dad that she was tired of her husband beating her and her kids and that she would get his life insurance money if he died. Her dad’s statement to the police about that conversation provided the probable cause and motive to arrest her and, in 2006, convict her of capital murder. She was one of three women on death row in Mississippi until her death sentence was rolled back to life in prison on Nov. 23, 2010—a change supported by the victim’s family—because a social worker wasn’t allowed to testify at her sentencing. Her premeditated actions were excluded from Edmonds’ trial, however. Judge James T. Kitchens Jr. agreed with District Attorney Forrest Allgood that the evidence was “inadmissible hearsay.” Bizarrely, in Fulgham’s trial, the same prosecutors used the evidence to show
system in the first place. In 1996, the “Body Count” trio praised the state of Florida, an early adapter to treating juveniles as adults. They especially gushed over the work of State Attorney Harry L. Shorstein in Jacksonville, who started an “unprecedented” program in 1992 that had funneled hundreds of juvenile offenders to Jacksonville’s jails by the end of 1994 and scores more to serve a year or more in Florida’s adult prisons. “Jacksonville’s would-be street predators got the message,” the authors wrote. Or did they? A 1996 study—done the year “Body Count” came out —showed that adult treatment was increasing recidivism. Youth transferred to adult court in Florida were a third more likely to reoffend than those sent to the juvenile-justice system for the same crime and with similar prior records. Of those who committed new crimes, the ones sent to adult court reoffended at twice the rate of those sent to juvenile court. Similar studies in states like New Jersey and New York came to a similar conclusion: Sending kids to the adult system is an abject failure when it comes to decreasing crime. It is also worse for the welfare of the child. In 2001, The Miami Herald reported that youth in Florida prisons were nearly 21 times as likely to report being assaulted or injured as counterparts in the juvenile system. Nationally, research shows that children in adult facilities are five times more likely to be raped, twice as likely to be beaten by staff and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon than those sent to the juvenile system. The U.S. Justice Department reports that children in adult jails are 7.7 times more likely to commit suicide than those in juvenile detention centers. Like adults, in this climate, even if children are innocent or if mitigating evidence exists, many prosecutors, judges and jurors want to send them to adult prison and throw away the key—even if it means violating the child’s constitutional right to a fair trial.
ening example of the double standard applied to testimony in criminal cases.” Diaz took the police to task for not allowing Edmonds’ mother to stay present, pointing out that the Youth Court Act applied because he had not been charged as an adult or told he was a suspect. An amicus brief filed by the Mississippi Youth Justice Project pointed out the “inherent illogic” in allowing police to question a child without his parent because they think they might charge him with murder later—thus exempting him from the Youth Court parental requirement. “[H]is mother’s removal from the room requires that we reverse and remand for a new trial,” Diaz stated. And he argued that admitting the confession violated Edmond’s rights against self-incrimination because a 13-yearold child cannot waive their Miranda rights “voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently.” “Tyler could not have understood the nature of the charges against him or the consequences of waiving his Fifth Amendment constitutional rights if he was never told that he was suspected of murder,” Diaz said. Diaz added that the police’s use of Fulgham, which he called a “psychological ploy,” to coerce Edmonds’ statement (and to benefit herself) was “improper influence” and unconstitutional—and it pitted a child against three adults. “Even if Tyler understood his rights, it is highly unlikely that a naive, 13-year-old child would disobey three adults including two police officers and his beloved sister,” Diaz wrote, echoing the research on the unreliable use of adult interrogation techniques on children. The justice also criticized the court’s denial of bail to Edmonds, leaving a 13-year-old who was unlikely to flee and had no history of violence, or even of being disciplined at school, sitting in jail for 14 months awaiting trial. He quoted then-Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Charles Pickering, who had written that Edmonds had a right to bail in a bond petition hearing before his court. Pickering wrote that he was “concerned greatly” that Edmonds was arrested May 12, 2003, and did not go on trial until July 19, 2004. “[I]t is inconceivable that the State of Mississippi could not have found some place to incarcerate this young defendant without maintaining him in an adult population for some 14 months before trial.” Pickering slammed the court for ignoring two mental experts it appointed who found that his mental state was declining while he awaited trial, but then ordering that neither expert could testify in his trial. “Without question, it was the State of Mississippi that was holding this 13-year-old before trial. Petitioner has raised serious constitutional issues about the incarceration of a 13-year-old held some 14 months before trial,” Pickering wrote.
‘Barbaric’ Conditions After his 2004 conviction, the state of Mississippi sent Edmonds to the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, where he was to stay until he turned 21 when he was to move 18 to the state penitentiary at Parchman to live
out his sentence. The 1,500-bed facility, which opened in 2001 with 500 beds about 65 miles north of Jackson, is where the state temporarily warehouses kids serving adult time. Inmates at Walnut Grove are between ages 13 and 22. Bedi estimates 90 percent of them are black. One of the youngest inmates at Walnut Grove, Edmonds witnessed fights, riots and retaliation. If one boy misbehaved, guards would pepper-spray the entire room, even the visitor’s area. His mother was visiting once and saw a baby get pepper sprayed. Edmonds started wearing his underwear in the shower because he was terrified of being raped. The facility had no classes or educational activities for the teens, Edmonds says. Walnut
and things usually turned into riots, which in turn got the whole zone or facility locked down for 24 to 48 hours.” To pass the time, Edmonds volunteered to work in the cafeteria handing out meals. A typical meal for a growing teenage boy at Walnut Grove was a hot dog, two pieces of white bread, navy beans, a peanut butter cookie and a carton of milk. The Geo Group, based in Boca Raton, Fla., owns and operates the for-profit youth jail, which has generated roughly $100 million in less than 10 years. Geo Group holds 25 percent of the U.S. private corrections market share and manages 116 correctional facilities in the United States, Australia, South Africa and Canada. Geo Group recently merged Valerie wells
December 1 - 7, 2010
TRYING KIDS, from page 17
Earlier this year,Tyler Edmonds decided to move to Arizona and escape the memories, and harassment, of living in Mississippi.
Grove hired a single teacher who would periodically stop by and visit each boy and asked if he wanted a GED worksheet. If a boy said no, she walked away. Edmonds said yes at first, though. He was so bored when he wasn’t terrified or depressed. The teacher gave the former honors student a single piece of paper with simple math problems that asked for the sum of two single-digit numbers and then left. Edmonds didn’t understand how anyone could think this was high-school work. His mother found a correspondence school for him so he could work on his high-school courses during the long, empty days. Before he left Walnut Grove, he got a high-school diploma. The teen had no counseling, no therapy, no group sessions, or any kind of intervention or help for the emotional and psychological issues he was left alone with and didn’t know any kids there who did. But behavioral problems spilled out everywhere. He would stay in his cell and doodle on a piece of paper over and over until a new ink pen ran out of ink— just to see how long it would take. “Things like two inmates arguing over a 13-cent pencil or an inmate masturbating in front of everyone when a female guard walked in the room was enough to drive anyone crazy,” Edmonds says now. “These arguments
with Cornell Companies, the former owner of Walnut Grove, in a $730 million merger. In 2005, Geo stock was $7.66 on the New York Stock Exchange. This year, Geo stock sold as high as $25.82. “These facilities were established to give young men a second chance,” Bedi says. Second chances, however, don’t always coincide with a corporation’s profit making. “They have every incentive to cut costs.” The Mississippi Youth Justice Project, along with civil-rights lawyer Rob McDuff and the ACLU’s National Prison Project, filed a class-action lawsuit against Walnut Grove Nov. 15, condemning “barbaric” conditions. In addition to too little supervision of the prisoners, the lawsuit alleges that guards provoke violent attacks between the residents. In January 2010, the suit alleges, an inmate (“John Doe”) warned facility guards that he feared attack from his cellmate, but they ignored his warnings. On Jan. 23, the cellmate raped and assaulted him for more than 24 hours before guards intervened. The suit says that Christopher Coleman requested separation from his cellmate for his safety, and then a guard encouraged the cellmate to beat him, and watched the attack. Guards also use excessive force, the lawsuit states, including mace in unprovoked or malicious beatings.
Walnut Grove provides inadequate mental-health care, the suit alleges, pointing out that the staff do not dispense medication regularly and charges Health Assurances LLC, the Jackson-based medical contractor, with providing fewer mental-health professionals than required by its contract. In October 2009, inmate Victor Allen hung himself from a light fixture in his cell. The lawsuit states that Allen repeatedly threatened to kill himself, but with no response from supervisors. In the first half of 2010, Walnut Grove recorded nine suicide attempts. Weeks before the lawsuit was announced, the U.S. Department of Justice opened its own investigation into conditions at Walnut Grove to look into “systematic violations of the Constitution” and to “focus on the protection of juveniles from harm, suicide prevention and the provision of medical care and mental health care.” ‘Let’s Go Rob Him’ Another 13-year-old boy was arrested for murder in Jackson less than three months before Tyler Edmonds. Demarious Latwan Banyard was shooting hoops at Jackson’s Westwick Apartments about 6 p.m. on Feb. 24, 2003, with a group of teenagers. Someone came around the corner and announced: “Pizza man is out there. Let’s go rob him.” One of the older guys playing basketball, Dennis Ragsdale, 19, went to his Jeep, got a gun and came back to the group. One of the players, Traven Kyser, saw Ragsdale cock the gun and take the clip out. He handed the gun to Banyard, who had not seen him unload it, Kyser said. “Let’s go rob the pizza man,” Ragsdale said. Banyard said later that he could not say no to Ragsdale—whom he called “serious” and “mean” and who had “jumped on him” the first time they met—and Kyser’s statement backed him up, saying Banyard feared for his own life. Carrying the gun, he walked toward Domino’s worker Robin Ballard’s black Malibu with Ragsdale walking “real close” to him, egging him on: “Go ‘head, come on.” At the Malibu, Ragsdale went to the passenger side and told Banyard to go to the driver’s side. “Give me the money,” Ragsdale told the victim. After he didn’t get the money, Banyard said later, Ragsdale “came back around” to his side. Banyard handed the gun back to Ragsdale, but it went off when he tapped the trigger, he said in a later confession. Ragsdale started laughing, and the two ran, leaving Ballard, 25 and the father of a 4year-old daughter, slumped over the steering wheel, shot in the neck. Soon afterward, as Jackson Det. Kent Daniels was interviewing witnesses, Banyard’s mother, Sheila Banyard, called JPD to say her son wanted to turn himself in. That evening, after Banyard waived his Miranda rights and with his mother present, Banyard implicated himself and Ragsdale. TRYING KIDS, see page 21
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