Representative Sonya Williams Barnes takes her Third Oath of Office as State Representative for House District 119 on the bible of her beloved grandmother, Mrs. Nancy Powell Hayes.  The bible was held by her  niece Thea Emerson Black.  "I am honored to continue to serve the citizens of House District 119.  Many thanks to the voters who have continued to elect me.   #ONWARDTOGETHER."

2020 Legislative Update: Week 1
The first day of session included the swearing-in ceremonies coupled with the election of the Speaker of the House, Speaker Pro Temp, 4th Congressional District representatives on both Management  and Rules Committees. 

The remainder of this week and next week will be comprised of customary housekeeping events.  A new leadership is taking over.  This is a super busy time getting things in order for the "real work" to begin.  Committee Assignments will be given next week and committees will begin meeting and discussing upcoming legislation .

To stay updated with the legislative session, please sign up to be placed on the mailing list.  Also, forward this newsletter to your neighbors, friends and colleagues.  Let us stay engaged.  #ONWARDTOGETHER

Yours In Service,
Sonya Williams Barnes
HD 119
*Statement from Mississippi Representatives on visit to Parchman**

Statement from Mississippi State Rep. Robert Johnson (D-94), on behalf of the House Democratic Caucus, as well as Reps. Jarvis Dortch (D-66),  Otis Anthony (D-31 ), Orlando Paden (D-26), Tracey Rosebud (D-30), Abe Hudson (D-29), John Hines (D-50,) and Sonya Williams- Barnes (D-119), after a visit today to Parchman State Penitentiary: 
"First, we are deeply sorry for the loss of anyone under our state's care. Our prayers go out to the families and the loved ones of the men we lost over the past days.  
"What we saw today at Parchman was a breeding ground for a bad situation. Corrections officers we spoke to said each unit should have four officers for every 64 incarcerated people. What we had this past weekend was two people for 128 people in prison.  
"People blame the gangs, but we must have the staff to manage the situation.  We as legislators have not lived up to our responsibility. And we had fewer than four staffers for 128 incarcerated people, and likely, the staff managing were women because 75% of correctional officers are women at Parchman.
"I don't think anyone can appreciate how bad the situation is. We have a 17,000-acre facility at Parchman for 3,400 people. We have people with low-level drug crimes who should be released and getting their lives back together, but instead are locked up.
"Last year, we underfunded the Department of Corrections by $980,000. Next week, we will have to pay $2.5 million to house about 300 people for 90 days. This is not a smart answer to this problem.  
"First, we need the parole board to have discretion to release parole-eligible people. We have over 6,000 of 19,000 people incarcerated who are eligible for parole, but because of unnecessary sentencing, mandatory minimums, they are not being released.    
"Finally, we would suggest that the governor use his executive power to commute the sentences of people who are eligible for parole so we can reduce the overcrowding in our prisons. These are nonviolent offenders and people who are not a threat to the public.
"The Legislature, the governor and our respective agencies have a lot of work to do."  
Rep. Sonya Williams Barnes Looks for Solutions 

Rep. Williams-Barnes wants to see changes in MDOC staffing, funding
By Chancelor Winn | January 11, 2020 at 9:10 PM CST - Updated January 12 at 9:03 AM

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - State representatives are working to improve correctional facilities after five inmates died in one week as state, private, and regional facilities were placed on lockdown.
State Representative for House District 119 Sonya Williams-Barnes takes safety very seriously, and her heart goes out to the victims.
"I first want to give my sincere condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones," she said.
Of the five inmates who died during the week of deadly violence, three were housed at the state penitentiary in Parchman, which is currently understaffed by around 75%. 

Barnes believes increasing the number of correctional officers would help manage the prison population, and that starts with increasing their pay.

"For people to be able to support their families, you have to have comparable salaries to accommodate their needs. You know you're going to have gang violence in prisons, but when you are properly staffed you are able to curtail those events," she said.

Last year, the Mississippi Department of Corrections was underfunded by $980,000. Barnes said we must put money into our prisons because facilities like Parchman are not up to par.

"We have to do something about it and it's not something that just happened because of the incident. You can tell it's just years of not being cared for, not having the funding to give it the proper care and maintenance," she said.

Next week, $2.5 million is being spent moving inmates to Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility for 90 days to help with overcrowding at Parchman. Barnes believes there is a more financially sound way to handle the overcrowding.

"One way of decreasing the population is to look at those who are eligible for parole," she said.
There are currently around 19,000 inmates in the state and 6,000 are eligible for parole.

Gulf Coast Legislative Reception
The Coast Reception was well attended as always. Many thanks to the Gulf Coast restaurants who participated this year.
Capitol Visitors
Col. Edward Evans, Jr. (center) and Camille Scales Young (right) visits the capitol. Col. Evans is the product of House District 119 and visited the state capitol this week.

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Sonya Williams Barnes