/Funding questions dog those defending death row inmates

Funding questions dog those defending death row inmates

Although Mississippi has not executed anyone in four years, capital cases have been continuing. They are still being charged with capital murder. They are having capital murder trials. Louwlynn Vandetta Williams, Director of the Office of Capital Post Conviction Counsel, stated that people are being convicted on a regular basis. After a person has been sentenced to death, the agency offers services to indigent people. The agency’s seven-member staff includes attorneys, investigators, paralegals, and paralegals. They currently work in 30 of Mississippi’s 47 death row cases. This involves traveling across the state in rented cars and flying around the country to hire investigators. Williams is one of many state officials still pondering how the Mississippi Budget Transparency and Simplification Act might affect their bottom lines. The bill transfers so-called special funds from different state agency budgets to the general fund. It also prohibits agencies charging or collecting money between themselves. This also applies to assessments, which are portions of the fines used to fund certain state agencies such as the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel. Jim Hood, Attorney General, has lamented the loss of the crime-victims compens fund and the payments to firefighters and disabled police officers. Both are also funded by assessments. Hood stated in a statement that $20 million will be lost in federal funding to state agencies. Hood stated this in a statement made in May. Hood explained that the federal government would not reimburse agencies under certain grants unless they have a receipt for rent, services or other payments to another agency in an arm’s length transaction. The bill bans agencies from paying rent to one another. This means that agency directors will be able to use money they have previously spent on rent to pay for other things. However, questions remain. Williams’ office now covers all documents it retrieves, such as birth certificates from Department of Vital Records, information coming from the Department of Corrections, and open-records requests. Williams estimates that document fees account for between 25% and 30% of the agency’s budget. She is not sure how much of $1.8 million the Legislature allocated to her agency will be used for documents or other fees among agencies. Liz Sharlot, spokesperson for the department of Health, which oversees vital records, stated that agency leaders are still trying get information from Capitol officials. Grace Fisher, MDOC spokeswoman referred Williams’ questions. Williams remains optimistic that things will be sorted out in the interim. Williams said, “It should all be fine. I hope it will be okay.”