‘Truth in sentencing’ bill eliminates parole for some felony crimes

Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 10:24 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2022 at 9:07 PM EDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.

In the state of Tennessee, you will have to serve the full sentence for certain crimes if Governor Lee signs the ‘truth in sentencing’ bill passed by lawmakers at the state capitol this week.

This legislation eliminates the possibility of parole for several felony crimes.

Criminal justice advocates worry the prison population will explode in a system already struggling with serious staffing issues, but supporters of ‘truth in sentencing’ say it could lead to fewer people behind bars.

“I hope more than anything,” said State Senator Jon Lundberg, a republican from Bristol, “we send a message that becomes a deterrent before anyone goes into our prison system.”

Opponents worry about the price tag.

The Tennessee Department of Correction said it will cost $96 million over the next decade to house inmates longer or create space for more inmates. The state’s prisons, according to TDOC, are already at 92% capacity.

“While it sounds tough on crime,” said State Senator Jeff Yarbro, a democrat representing Nashville, “there’s just not evidence that it works. We’ve seen the data and we know that truth in sentencing doesn’t work. But it costs a lot of money.”

Crimes that would require 100% of the sentence to be served under the updated legislation in effect July 1, 2022:

  • Attempted first-degree murder
  • Second-degree murder
  • Criminally negligent homicide
  • Vehicular homicide with driver intoxication
  • Aggravated vehicular homicide
  • Especially aggravated kidnapping
  • Especially aggravated robbery
  • Carjacking
  • Especially aggravated burglary

A problem for democratic State Senator Raumesh Akbari from Memphis is that there would be no more time off for good behavior or getting your GED.

“At the end of the day,” she told her fellow lawmakers, “if you’re not able to work toward something like decreasing your time, it really is proven not to be effective. Most of the folks who will be incarcerated will re-enter society. We have completely taken away any sort of incentive for them to participate in these programs that will make them a better person.”

But Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, who joined Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis and Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich in publicly calling for truth in sentencing laws in order to stop the “revolving door at 201,” applauded the action taken by Tennessee lawmakers.

He issued the following statement to Action News 5:

“For too long, violent crime has plagued our city. I am very happy this legislation passed because it will help keep violent criminals off our streets. But this is only one part of the puzzle. I am also very thankful for the $100 million in the Governor’s budget for crime intervention and rehabilitation. There must be severe consequences for severe behavior, but we must also provide opportunities for those individuals who want to choose a better path in life.”

Chief Davis told Action News 5:

“The Memphis Police Department supports any legislation that aids in reducing violent crime in our community.”

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