Solicitor Byron Gipson of the 5th district of South Carolina believes he and his team should be “ministers of justice.” He became an E Pluribus Unum fellow in 2020 as part of that pursuit.
Gipson has seen many sides of the law; solicitors are South Carolina’s district attorneys, but for over twenty years prior to taking the role, Gipson was a criminal defense lawyer. He is devoted to keeping his community safe. He also believes the justice system should be fair and equitable, but that there are disparities in experience and outcomes across lines of race and class.
Too often, Gipson saw people in his community in jail, or at risk of arrest, over low-level, nonviolent matters like unpaid traffic tickets. Some had missed a court date for a misdemeanor, and now had a “bench warrant,” meaning they could be arrested and held in jail to wait for their rescheduled date.
Often these were people of color or people in poverty. Gipson felt it didn’t serve his community to have them terrified of a routine traffic stop, or sitting in jail, away from their families and jobs. He also felt it wasn’t the best use of law enforcement’s time to arrest them.