We must use county resources to better fight crime in Memphis. We can bring more sheriff deputies into Memphis by reviving and expanding the joint county-city “Metro Unit” patrols or similar task forces. I have been working with Sheriff Luttrell, Mayor Wharton, and City Councilman Collins on this issue. Crime doesn’t respect city-county boundaries, and neither should law enforcement.
We should fully fund and support Operation Safe Community, the 14-strategy program of both crime prevention and tougher enforcement developed jointly by the D.A., MPD, Sheriff’s Dept., County and City Administrations, and other stakeholders. As Commissioner, I have voted to fund these priorities, supporting pay raises and opposing layoffs of deputies; increasing funding for pretrial “diversion” programs; and increasing the number of prosecutors so we can employ “vertical prosecution” (where the same prosecutor handles a case from investigation through trial, sentencing, and appeal). Additionally, I have supported D.A. Gibbons’ and Mayor Wharton’s efforts to increase criminal penalties for illegal gun possession, and supported a pay increase for sheriff’s deputies.   In addition, I have worked long and hard and with some success on personally mediating various disputes between the sheriff deputies’ union and the Sheriff.
We should also use Domestic Violence and Drug Courts, which have worked well both here and in other jurisdictions. As Commissioner, I have consistently voted to support increased funding for the Drug Court; worked successfully to create a dedicated Domestic Violence Court; and have appointed a qualified judge to fill that court.
We need to improve re-entry services for released offenders so that they can reintegrate into society and avoid returning to the criminal lifestyle. As Commissioner, I have supported and fully funded Mayor Wharton’s efforts to strengthen re-entry programs.
We need to work to increase the number of bilingual officers and bilingual 911 operators to better serve our area’s growing Latino population. I have repeatedly conveyed this and related concerns of the Latino community to the Sheriff’s Department.   I have also conveyed to the Sheriff the need to communicate to the Latino community that local law enforcement does not enforce our nation’s immigration laws, so that all members of the Latino community can feel comfortable reporting crimes and serving as witnesses.
We need to fight privatization of our jails and prisons. Reputable studies have shown that privatization lowers the quality of jail services without saving money in the long run.. Privatization destroys good jobs and increases guard turnover. This in turn leads to more escapes, less humane conditions for the prisoners, and costly lawsuits. As Commissioner, I have voted consistently against all attempts to open the door to jail privatization, working with the Mid South Peace and Justice Center and local labor groups.
We need to spend the same kinds of resources on fighting crack in the city as we do on fighting crystal meth. The crack trade can devastate inner city neighborhoods and make them unlivable for law-abiding people.
We need to work to encourage community-based crime prevention efforts—neighborhood watches, domestic violence shelters, youth programs, etc.
While tougher law enforcement is a priority, it’s also important to make sure that criminal defendants get adequate representation. That’s why I’ve taken on many pro bono legal cases to right wrongs for defendants who can’t afford to pay a lawyer. Some but not all of these cases involve my opposition to the death penalty. In one case, I helped obtain the first clemency of a Death Row inmate in Tennessee in 40 years.