MADD launches Court Monitoring Program to probe disparities and identify best practices
JACKSON, Miss. — Analyzing data gathered from the state’s sheriffs’ offices and the Mississippi Highway Patrol, MADD has identified five counties each in the northern and southern portions of the state that appear to have very low DUI dismissal rates. These counties are: (in Northern Mississippi) Clay County, Cohoma County, Holmes County, Marshall County and Sunflower County, and (in Southern Mississippi) Amite County, Jones County, Lawrence County, Marion County and Yazoo County. While the exact reasons behind low dismissal rates in these counties is undetermined at this point, MADD applauds the law enforcement, prosecutors and judges in these areas who send a strong message to Mississippi drivers that impaired driving will not be tolerated.
Working under a grant from the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, Division of Public Safety Planning, Office of Highway Safety, MADD has launched a court monitoring program whose purpose is to identify those counties with strong prosecution of drunk driving cases and to share their best practices with counties whose data appears to reflect high dismissal rates. With 149 drunk driving fatalities and countless injuries in 2011, Mississippians deserve strong and consistent prosecution of these cases from border to border. The grant covers the salaries of two part-time court monitors whose job it is to observe court proceedings, gather data and enter it into a database, and recruit and train volunteers to help with this important work.
Bill Downs of Gulfport and his wife, Julie, both volunteer with the Gulf Coast Chapter of MADD. The Downses lost their son, daughter-in-law, and godson in a crash on October 6, 2007 that involved a drunk driver traveling at a high rate of speed. “We're trying to convey to everyone that drunk driving is a choice and not a mistake. We believe that strong and consistent DUI prosecution sends a clear message that drunk driving is a very serious matter; court monitoring is one way to support judges who are doing an outstanding job,” said Bill Downs.
In Grenada, Miss., MADD advocate Steve Richardson stated, "Court attendance sends a strong message of support for law enforcement's battle with drunken drivers. Most judges and prosecutors appreciate MADD and want deaths due to DUI stopped. I am very pleased MADD is addressing the critical issue of court monitoring."
Mississippians who are interested in becoming involved in MADD’s court monitoring program can contact either Lorraine Fay in southern Mississippi at (228) 261-8600 or Sherrel Clark in northern Mississippi at (662) 315-2526.
About Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Founded by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to protect families from drunk driving and underage drinking. With the help of those who want a safer future, MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® will end this danger on America’s roads. Power Talk 21® is the national day for parents to talk with their kids about alcohol, using the proven strategies of Power of Parents® to reduce the risk of underage drinking. And as one of the largest victim services organizations in the U.S., MADD also supports drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge, serving one person every eight minutes through local MADD victim advocates and at 1-877-MADD-HELP. Learn more at www.madd.org  or by calling 1-877-ASK-MADD.