“In my opinion, the criminal justice system is broken.”
These words from Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson after a weekend in which the Port City saw 17 shootings resulting in three deaths. Stimpson blames the judicial revolving door which is releasing violent criminals.
“The foremost thing on everyone’s mind right now is the violent gun crimes we all experienced this weekend,” Stimpson said. “As quickly as we can make arrests, we find that violent offenders are back on the street.”
The backlog of cases in Mobile is staggering. Some 142 murder cases are currently awaiting a grand jury, with 193 cases awaiting trial. Stimpson said many of these people are walking the streets today while their trials pend.
“The decisions by some judges to put a preference on individuals' rights over the collective right of public safety is having serious and deadly consequences,” Stimpson said. “We have people shooting at police and innocent bystanders.”
After a shooting at a shopping center on Friday where two people were fatally wounded, a vigil was held Sunday night, yet even that event saw gunfire erupt. Police Chief Paul Prine said officers were in the area when the shooting began and one fired back, although no one was injured. Several weapons were confiscated and four people were arrested, including three who were charged with having a weapon without a permit, but none was charged in the shooting itself.
“It has been a violent weekend, but we want the public to know that the majority of these shootings this weekend were among known individuals, and we don’t believe the public is at risk of being harmed. But there’s always that risk when you have an incident of this nature,” Prine told WPMI-TV.
Prine echoed the Mayor’s sentiments on the criminal justice system.
“We have to do a better job at recruitment and certainly retaining the better officers we have,” Prine said. “Policing is not the problem. It’s the judicial system. To say that it is broken is an understatement. We cannot arrest our way out of it.”
Mayor Chief of Staff James Barber outlined a plan for a “special court” which would use three retired judges to hear the backlog of cases.
“Some of the judges are adamant that everybody has an individual right to bail,” said Barber. “The collective right of the public to be safe outweighs the individual right to bail in these violent cases.”
Barber is hopeful that Aniah’s Law, a constitutional amendment that would allow judges to deny bail to violent offenders, will win the majority of votes in November when it will be on the ballot in Alabama.
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