/Monroe County Front line of America’s drug war

Monroe County Front line of America’s drug war

As she is being handcuffed, she declares that “I don’t sell any dope.” This is not an episode of Cops. This is local TV coverage of Monroe County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell’s latest drug roundup, which was held the week prior to Thanksgiving. The sting that started Nov. 17 led to almost 60 arrests. Most of the women and men arrested were charged with selling a controlled substance, which was crack cocaine in most cases. They also faced a $20,000 bond. A middle-aged man can be seen speaking in slow, slurred tones. He appears to believe he is being held for public drunkenness and claims he can watch the Super Bowl, even though it was almost a year ago, in February. Cantrell ran as sheriff on the promise to clean up drug abuse in northeast Mississippi county, which has a population of 36,989. He invites a local television news crew to join him on the busts of his department. This shows that he is serious. Cantrell, a Democrat has been fighting his drug war ever since he took office five years ago. After serving as a judge in the justice court for 24 years, he ran for sheriff in 2011. He promised to address the “great drug problem”. His tough-on-drugs approach is what he attributes to his win in 2015 with nearly 80 percent of the vote. Roundups by Cantrell are a regular feature on WTVA broadcasts as well as reports in the Monroe County Journal. In 2016, his deputies conducted at most three major roundups and dozens of smaller busts. There are many opinions on whether Monroe County has a greater drug problem than other counties in the state. It is clear that Monroe County is part of a larger drug war. Local officials are under pressure to clean the streets and fill correctional facilities with drug dealers and users. Lack of funding for drug treatment programs, particularly for the poor, almost guarantees that they will end up back in prison. Cantrell claims that his anti-drug philosophy is partly rooted in faith and partly practicality. Cantrell believes that “the Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t want drugs (so) He’s opening doors to law enforcement.” Cantrell also claims that “100% of drug dealers” are responsible for 90% of the theft in Monroe County. He suggests that a person suffering from a drug addiction might be able to sell $500 worth of boosted merchandise in exchange for $30 worth drugs. Many illegal guns and automobiles, often worth up to $20,000, are also seized during busts. Cantrell acknowledges that many of those he has arrested receive government assistance. They also sell drugs to make ends satisfy. Cantrell received a call from a Chicago woman whose daughter had been arrested in Monroe County during the interview. She wanted to know if she could get her daughter in a drug treatment program. Cantrell stated that the daughter could be added to a waiting list, but that he could not provide any assistance beyond that. “We are going to clean up drug. Cantrell stated that it takes too many lives. “People in this area know how drugs can affect your family. Your wife, your husband and your entire family will be affected by drugs. A visit to Commerce Street, Aberdeen’s main drag through the downtown area, on a November afternoon yielded mixed responses to the question about whether there is a widespread drug problem. Two men and a woman were smoking outside a shopfront. They said they believe the town is safe, but didn’t know how much was due to the sheriff’s drug raids. Many others refused to speak about the drug busts or drug dealers. An older woman waved at passengers from almost every car passing her, but she declined to identify herself or give interviews for this story. She stated that most of those swept up in the latest sweep were not drug dealers, but poor drug users. Mississippi Today reached out to more than 20 people who were arrested on November 17. Half of the numbers were sent to the phones of sisters, mothers, daughters, wives, and girlfriends. One woman claimed that her daughter was still in jail because she couldn’t pay the bond. Another woman claimed her mother wasn’t a drug dealer and was angry that she was taken to jail naked by law enforcement officers. Mississippi Today only received one response. He was willing to speak to a reporter even if his name wasn’t published. This was due to his pending charges as well as his upcoming court appearances. They got all the drug users. He said that they had the users. He said, “Most of those I know won’t sell any lick — they will smoke it.” But he considers himself to be among the fortunate ones. He was able to post the $20,000 bond because of his two jobs and he plans to hire an attorney to defend the charges. How are you going to come up with $2,000 if you don’t have a job and you are a user? He said that they knew exactly what they were doing. He also spoke out about his financial situation, saying that he couldn’t afford to leave the country. The drug-court program in Mississippi is intended to assist people who have been affected by alcoholism or drug addiction and are able to get help for certain nonviolent offenses, such as those involved in sheriff’s roundsups. It is difficult to get help in Monroe County. Circuit Court Judge Jim Pounds is the adult felony drug court judge for seven counties in northeast Mississippi. He has 230 participants and says that he has the lowest number of participants from Monroe County. These reasons are mostly economic. A defendant must plead guilty to drug court and agree to participate in a drug treatment program. They also need to attend regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The judge and prosecutors will also require that the defendant be available for random drug testing. Participants in Pounds’ court must be available for random drug testing at least twice a week. Participants in drug-courts pay for all of this. According to Judge Pounds’s office, the 42 graduating seniors from northeast Mississippi paid $99,317.50 in fines and court costs. They also received restitution to their respective counties. Chad Clardy (director of community outreach at LIFECORE Behavioral Health in Tupelo), said that the Monroe County population is scattered and “disconnected” from everything. This makes it difficult for many people to travel back and forth to receive treatment. He also mentioned the cost of treatment. You need to have resources in order to participate in drug court. You can’t go to drug court without the resources. Clardy stated that there are fines to be paid and all sorts of other stuff. Pounds is a lenient person. Pounds will give defendants two to three weeks to come up to money if they don’t have enough cash. He can also send them to a state jail with a long-term alcohol dependency and/or drug unit. Pounds stated that they have two options: go to drug court or the penitentiary. “It’s been really successful for those who want it.” The state has stepped in to help fill the funding gap for drug-treatment programs for the poor. The Department of Mental Health has increased funding for the 15 community mental health centers since the last round of legislative budget cuts. This is to ensure that poor people can access treatment. The funding for community mental health centers has been increased by the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services of the agency, which has increased it by around $400,000. Judge Pounds wants funding to establish a drug-court program in Aberdeen. However, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Sheriff Cantrell said that he won’t differentiate between large-scale drug traffickers and smaller-time users caught in his dragnets. His job is to secure anyone involved in the drug trade. It’s up to a judge to decide what happens next. He said, “If you are involved in Monroe County drug dealing, I’m going to catch you and send to the penitentiary.” To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to our Spring Member Drive today. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think. Republish this Story You can republish our articles online or in print for free under a Creative Commons licence.