Newly-elected Chancery Court Judge, Debra Giles, has been on the bench for just over three weeks and on Tuesday she visited the Sunflower County Board of Supervisors to share with the officials her progress, plans and proposals.
Giles said she has already filled some key positions such as the court administrator, but is still searching for her law clerk and a court reporter, an individual that she said is in high demand, but short supply statewide.
As for future plans, Giles said she intends to implement a drug court within the youth court system because she is aware of the need. "We've had some concerns from the school district that we do have a problem with drugs within our schools and we’ve seen it even in the short time that we've been here," she said. Giles said some of the youth are mixing drugs with their prescription medications and that presents a great concern.
Giles said her intent is to hold the youth and their parents answerable for the child's actions. She said parents will have to give account of what their children are doing. “They brought them here, so they have to have the sole responsibility of taking care of them. We are here to help, but this court is not inclined to raise somebody's child.”
Giles said her court is there to help, but not take on the full responsibility. She is also implementing a mentoring program where she proposes to expose the youth to local and out-of-town persons that were originally from the area in order to demonstrate that they, the youth, can also be successful. "Whatever we can do to get them to the next level," she said.
Giles said she is also focused on giving young people an opportunity to learn a trade in the hopes that they will remain in the cities to better the cities. Giles told the county supervisors that she is working with Families First at the encouragement of the Mississippi Department of Human Services because they do have funds available that could assist with some of the projects.
She projects that in many cases the real problem is what's going on in the youth's home and that will be one of the ways that Families First fits into her equation.
Giles said she will be continually working to stop the school-to-prison pipeline that many of the area youth have fallen victim to, however she acknowledged that the current court systems makes it difficult.
As for the youth referees and defenders Giles said she is still testing the waters so she can find the best fit for her, the youths and the community and she is not making any commitment to any person at the present time.
District 2 Supervisor Riley Rice asked about the youth who come through the criminal justice system without being evaluated and Giles said each youth that comes before her would get an evaluation that involves an educational and psychological assessment. "We need to know where they are," she said.
The first-term adjudicator asserted, "I'm five minutes away from the PD, when I get a call and I’m at home or at the office, I'm going to ask questions. I don't lay in the bed, I don't give an order from the house. If I'm here, I'm going, I’m drafting those orders getting those youth wherever they need to be."
She mentioned a 48-hour turnaround time to find placement for the youth because she does not believe in having them sit around waiting or sitting in jail. "That's not the appropriate place for persons with mental health issues," she said. She plans to work together with other agencies to find the best resources available for the youth and for the community.
Giles praised her current team and assured the county officials that her staff would do what is best for the county. She said in her short experience she has found that many of the youth just want to be loved and to know that somebody cares.
Another aspect of Giles’ position will be having volunteer lawyers come in and do pro bono clinics to address various topics for the citizens. The first one is already set for the second week in February.
In other business,
The county lawmakers voted unanimously to hire insurance agent Troy Dixon of Allstate and the Petra Group to administer the county’s cafeteria plan, contingent upon Attorney Johnny McWilliams approval of the contract.