State should fund crime, medical labs

Published 12:01 am Sunday, April 22, 2018

Losing a loved one, particularly one’s own child, is among life’s toughest emotional cliffs. In Mississippi, however, our state government’s lack of focus on people can make the grieving process arduously long.

Celeste Jones lost her son, Jesse, more than a year ago. Throughout that time, friends, family and even her son’s creditors have sought information about Jesse’s death.

Due to an extreme backlog at the Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office, Celeste has no answers more than 13 months after her son passed out unexpectedly and died soon after.

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That excruciating wait is unacceptable and far from the norm in other states, experts say. Nearby Arkansas typically completes and releases autopsy reports in 60 days.

Mississippi’s woes also extend to the State Crime Lab, where law enforcement investigators send evidence for examination in criminal matters.

Long delays there cause problems for law enforcement and the public at large as well.

If law enforcement officers are awaiting lab results to have enough evidence to charge a suspect, it’s quite possible a violent offender remains free to walk the streets and commit additional crimes during the wait for evidence.

The problems stem from reduced funding offered the two state agencies. Budget cuts have hampered many state agencies and in these two examples delays are both emotionally damaging as well as potentially harmful to society.

We urge state lawmakers to focus attention on this problem and provide adequate funding to these important state functions.