HATTIESBURG, MISS. – A Mississippi lawmaker wants to see a change in the criminal justice system after the death of his father and says it could have a positive impact on the state’s economy.
“Back in 1991 on Super Bowl Sunday, my father was murdered,” Juan Barnett, a Mississippi state senator (District 34) said emotionally. “The individual that murdered my father did very little jail time.”
Twenty-eight years later, and Barnett says he still feels the pain from his father’s death. Barnett found out about his father’s murder three days after it happened, while he was deployed in Iraq.
“It just really bothered me,” Barnett said. “Because I found myself fighting for a country and everyone’s freedoms, but I felt like the judicial system had let me and my family down.”
Barnett admitted for many years, he felt anger, frustration, and bitterness towards the country’s judicial system. However, after harboring these feelings for years, Barnett says he finally managed to find forgiveness for the person that took his father’s life.
“It’s like a voice just spoke to me and said, ‘until you forgive, you’ll forever be in this place,’” Barnett stated.
Now Barnett says he is an advocate for criminal justice reform, and he pushes for non-violent offenders to receive what he calls a second chance.
“When we begin to see how criminal justice reform works, and [how it] can be beneficial to the individuals and the state, then we will being to see how our tax dollars will be saved as a result,” Barnett said.
As of right now, Mississippi taxpayers spend more than 300 million dollars each year on the current prison system. However, this could change with House Bill 1352, which Barnett plans to introduce during this year’s session.