JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - A common thread in the requests for more money is the need for more staff, and money to pay them.
“If you’ll look at our budget requests, you’ll see none of it’s gravy," said Department of Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher. “We’re not asking for any special things. We didn’t ask for a whole bunch of money so we could go to training spot in Hawaii or anything like that. These are basic needs. We are critically short of Highway Patrolmen and MBN agents and MBI agents.”
A large part of the Department of Corrections budget is also because of staffing concerns.
“When you think about 19,404 people incarcerated in the Mississippi state prison system with only approximately 19,053 employees, something has to be done about that,” noted MDOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall.
But the hearing was abruptly interrupted by a group of protesters.
“16 people killed in August," shouted one protester. "Fund restorative justice. The prison industrial complex has been killing people for too long.”
“Nothing sinister here," explained Hall. "There’s nothing to hide. Based on information that we currently have available to us it’s based on natural causes. And that’s the bottom line, we have people in our system who suffer from chronic and acute illnesses and we do our very best to take care of those individuals and get them the appropriate level of medical care and that’s what we’ve done here.”
“People have died," continued one protester. "We can’t even get a meeting with this woman. Pelicia Hall doesn’t answer to anybody.”
“I do believe I’ve been transparent,” stated Commissioner Hall. “I put out press releases as it relates to our response about these deaths. I don’t necessarily have to go on camera to be transparent.”
The Department of Education also asked for more money but said it was to continue the work on programs that were already seeing a return on the state’s investment, like early childhood education.
These budget requests today are preliminary. It helps lawmakers create a blueprint for the budget. The specific work and more questions will be asked during the legislative session that starts in January.