Magic City Radar was granted the opportunity to speak with Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway and discuss campaign goals and new community projects.
Tell us… what are some community projects you have started while in office?
A campaign promise I made was to “Bridge the Gap” between Law Enforcement and the Community. As a part of the promise, I have launched a number of community initiatives to spark more dialogue between residents and the sheriff deputies so that relationships are formed and in place before crime strikes. Through the initiatives below I provide communities a seat at the table in shaping future policies surrounding how citizens are protected within Jefferson County.
- Renewed for Re-Entry Program: As Sheriff, I designed and initiated a Renewed for Re-Entry Program at the Jefferson County Correctional Facility. This program has been successful thus far for inmate students at the jail. I entered into a partnership with Lawson State College to have inmates taught job skills. Inmates are taught and encouraged to take charge of their futures and start owning their futures by taking charge of their actions now. This program empowers the inmate students to not be repeat offenders in the criminal justice system and try to go down the straight and narrow path in life. Inmates eligible for the program, which is funded through a community grant, are those who are being held on non-violent offenses. Program Officials work with judges to identify those best suited for the program, and as Sheriff, I support and expect Renewed for Re-entry to also be used as a sentencing alternative. Inmate students can use that education to show the judge they want to do something better with their life. They will have a job available at the end, and their self-esteem will be highly changed.
- Jobs not Jail: “Bridging the Gap” extended to communities with a plan to prevent crimes by offering job opportunities: “Jobs not Jail.” A job fair was made available to aid those who normally would not show up to a regular job fair with hiring on the spot. Discovering from many potential applicants that they could not get jobs because of their past criminal history, attorneys were contacted to assist in the expungement of their records. With attorney fees waived and opportunities given, many lives and futures have been changed for the better.
- Books not Bullets: Partnering with the American Federation of Teachers, “Books Not Bullets” was established. Books were read at schools and given out in communities while bringing mentors into schools and the detention center to help the youth. Aware of the pipeline to prison, I knew that without mentors, the pipeline would continue. I have worked diligently with mentors in the community to help bring direction into the lives of young people.
- Summer with the Sheriff Internship Program: As Sheriff, I am adamant about mentoring those in the community who have a desire to serve in law enforcement. This program gives interns an unprecedented look at the various roles within the Sheriff’s Office and the criminal justice system. Interns have the opportunity to meet me, shadow deputies, visit courtrooms, and tour college campuses. This is a great opportunity for rising high school seniors that are interested in criminal justice careers to gain insight that will prepare them to choose a long-term career path.
- Enhanced Deputy Training: I made a commitment to training. Completed in January 2022, Jefferson County now has a new state of the art training facility where deputies are trained to deal with individuals with mental illness. A hub to train other agencies in the Northern District on among many things, how to deescalate situations and detect those dealing with mental illness, As Sheriff, I promise to continue deploying more and better ways to serve the citizens of our area.
- Crisis Diversion Center: In collaboration with the Jefferson County delegation (all who supported the idea) and under Sheriff Pettway’s leadership while working together with JBS Mental Health Authority and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Jefferson County was awarded the Crisis Diversion Center. Instead of being arrested, this center will service those with addictions and mental illness in receiving the help needed. With shorter wait time for intake at the center, law enforcement will be back on their beats sooner. A win-win for the community as a whole.
- Sheriff’s Neighborhood Enforcement Team: When I took office in January 2019, one of my first items of business was to establish the Sheriff’s Neighborhood Enforcement Team (SNET) to travel county-wide to fight crime on the streets. The SNET has had overwhelming success in making Jefferson County neighborhoods safer. The main purpose of SNET is to address the high crime areas wherever they may be in Jefferson County. An example of their impact, in May 2019 the SNET made 69 felony arrests in Jefferson County which resulted in the recovery of more than $61,000 in stolen property and over $16,000 in the seizure of drug money. In June 2019, there were 61 felony arrests. In addition and in May 2019, the Sheriff’s Vice and Narcotic unit shut down more than 15 drug houses in western Jefferson County. This unit’s work along with SNET has made a major impact on stopping crime in these areas. “Drug dealers may set up shop on the western side of town but their customers come from all over the county. That’s why it’s imperative that we shut these drug dealers down. When the two units work in tandem the streets become safer, which is a major strategic initiative this office has put into place,” added Sheriff Pettway.
If re-elected, what are some new ideas you may want to start in Jefferson County?
I will continue championing the initiatives I started that Bridge the Gap between Law Enforcement and the Community. I have always maintained an open-door policy and welcome partnerships with their community to ensure we foster new ideas.
Why should the citizens of Jefferson County vote for you?
I encourage the citizens of Jefferson County to review the work that I have done in just 3.5 years. I delivered what I promised. I am asking the voters of Jefferson County to re-elect me so that I can continue the progress I have made.
How can people join your team?
I welcome all to help us win our bid for re-election by joining our team. Go to
https://www.markpettway.com/join-the-team and sign up to help Team Pettway.
Please go to the polls and VOTE to Re-Elect Sheriff Mark Pettway on May 24th.