Funding running out for special Jackson judgeship

April 17, 2012 in News

JACKSON – (AP) Funding is running out for a Hinds County task force formed to handle major drug and violent crime cases – and for the judge appointed to oversee those cases.

The Jackson Enforcement Team program began in 2008. It was funded by a $3.5 million federal law enforcement grant. In 2010, the state Supreme Court found money to continue JET through a $2 million grant provided by the U.S. Department of Justice Federal Office of Justice Programs to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety’s Office of Public Safety Planning, but that money has now run out.

The state was to pick up funding for JET after federal funding ended. But The Clarion-Ledger reports that state budget problems raised doubts about continued funding. And a Supreme Court spokeswoman said JET funding won’t be renewed.

L. Breland Hilburn, a retired Hinds County circuit judge, was appointed in November 2010 to preside over cases filed by the Jackson Enforcement Team. His appointment ends April 30.

As of Thursday, Hilburn had about 570 cases pending.

It would be a shame for the JET program to end, Hilburn said.

“It has made a difference,” Hilburn said. “We handle a lot of cases.”

The task force consists of officers from the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the Jackson Police Department, the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department and the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

MBN Director Marshall Fisher said the JET task force averaged 500 arrests a year.

A few task force members will lose jobs, he said.

But Fisher said he is committed to having a smaller squad to concentrate on major drug traffickers in Jackson.

“We’re not going to stop our mission,” he said.

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said he wishes the JET program could continue at least for another year.

Smith said Hilburn has helped the county not only by handling JET cases but also by disposing of old cases.