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Published on June 18, 2024
Shelby County DA Steve Mulroy Retracts Diversion Program Amid Political Backlash and Plans for Ouster ResolutionSource: Shelby County District Attorney

Amidst growing political tensions, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy has reversed course on a proposed diversion program aimed at curbing racial disparities within the legal system, per a statement by Action News 5. The contentious program, which would have provided an alternative approach to nonviolent felons caught with illegal firearms, was designed to emphasize rehabilitation over incarceration.

However, the district attorney's pivot comes as he acknowledged the limited impact of such a program, saying, "after looking at the number of cases that qualify, I realize it would only be a handful of cases—not enough to help with racial disparities", as the community also voiced its concerns, his press statement detailed plans to continue seeking other means to mitigate racial inequities, but the specifics are still pending given the political pressures surrounding the program. Republican representatives like Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton have expressed stern criticism calling Mulroy's earlier program "a serious misjudgment," according to Action News 5.

The political repercussions for DA Mulroy have escalated, as State Sen. Brent Taylor has announced intentions to file a resolution for Mulroy's ouster, citing the DA's leniency toward felons possessing firearms as a move that allegedly undermines public safety, with Mulroy decrying the motivations behind this action as "pure politics," as reported by WREG. Taylor remains undeterred and is set to present his resolution in the Senate immediately following the November elections, which he insists is not solely about the diversion program but speaks to a larger issue concerning the DA's overall approach to crime and punishment.

Furthermore, Taylor's planned resolution is backed by allegations made by Speaker Sexton last week, who aimed Mulroy for "kowtowing to criminals"; this adds another layer of contention as Mulroy's administration navigates the complexities of criminal reform and public safety. Sexton's stance became part of an ongoing debate that reflects deep divides over how to best address crime while confronting systemic racial disparities, a debate that is seemingly far from resolution despite the recent decision to withdraw the program, illustrated by political maneuvering and statements featured in Local Memphis.