STARKVILLE — Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph recalls the moment he gained the strongest motivation for his law career.
When his first grandchild was born in August 2003, he said the way he viewed life was changed forever. He held her in his arms for the first time and believed applying Christian principles was the best way to improve the state’s court system.
“I told my wife that day, if we don’t get people into the court system that believe in God and go to Sunday school and church and do the right thing, this child is not going to have a life that we’ve enjoyed,” Randolph told Starkville Rotarians on Monday.
Completing his 27th full-through Bible reading this year, Randolph said the law and constitution are not much different from the Bible. Randolph said as chief justice, he believes in free choice because the constitution says people have the freedom to choose how to live their lives.
“If you want to be a Christian, be a Christian, and if you don’t, there are some penalties for it, but that’s your choice,” Randolph said. “Our constitution says it’s your choice which church you want to go to.”
Aside from his faith, Randolph told Rotarians about the state intervention court system. This court allows non-violent drug offenders the opportunity for work and treatment rather than the typical prison alternative.
To keep one person at a Mississippi state penitentiary costs $18,000 per year, but through this program, only $1,200 is spent per year on criminals because they work to pay for their fines, counseling and other fees throughout the program. Randolph said this has saved the state $586 million over the last 10 years because offenders are out working jobs rather than sitting in Parchman not paying taxes.
“Intervention courts are about accountability,” Randolph said. “… They are being monitored, and they are paying their own way. They have to pay a participation fee, but you know what happens when they have a job, and they’re not in jail? After three or four years, they think, ‘This is a pretty good deal.’”
A judge determines who is eligible for intervention court, and offenders are monitored by taking weekly drug tests and reporting to the court to confirm compliance of the program. Graduating participants not only have their charges dismissed but also gain the necessary tools to rebuild their lives, Randolph said, such as money management and a good work ethic.
Randolph said a pending legislative bill could put $12 million into intervention courts. This money would give more education and treatment services to participants.
“I encourage you all to petition your legislators to put this money into the intervention court,” Randolph said.