Memphis mayor calls out critics of new ‘truth in sentencing’ law

Published: May. 14, 2022 at 3:06 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Mayor Jim Strickland used strong language to go after critics of Tennessee’s new “truth in sentencing” law, accusing one of them of spreading false information.

During an appearance on Friday’s “Behind the Headlines,” a public affairs program on WKNO-TV hosted by Eric Barnes, Strickland was asked about his support for a “truth in sentencing” bill that recently passed the Tennessee General Assembly.

The law will require offenders convicted of a range of felonies, from attempted first-degree murder to vehicular homicide to carjacking, to serve 100% of their sentences with no chance of earning early release.

Strickland said in 2021, 25% of people convicted of aggravated assaults in Shelby County received probation.

Of those who received a jail sentence, 42% served less than 11 months, Strickland said.

He noted the crimes included stabbing a co-worker, shooting someone in the stomach and a drive-by shooting.

“That is outrageous,” Strickland said. “And for people in Memphis to claim that it’s not is bull****.”

The mayor then called out Josh Spickler, the director of Just City, which supports criminal justice reform.

Spickler has been a vocal opponent of the new state law.

“He’s the leading disseminator of false information,” Strickland said about Spickler.

On Saturday, Action News 5 spoke with Spickler to get his reaction to the mayor’s comments about him.

“The mayor’s response that I’m disseminating false information is disappointing because it looks just like the kind of things we’re so sick of seeing in our politics,” said Spickler.

Spickler says he doesn’t feel the mayor owes him an apology.

“The mayor should not apologize to me. That is the farthest thing from my mind,” said Spickler.

Spickler says he shares the mayor’s outrage about the system being broken.

“But what we do about that is not lock people up for longer,” Spickler said. “There is no way to solve this problem like that.”

Spickler fears the “truth in sentencing” law will lead to the construction of more prisons and won’t make neighborhoods any safer.

“We built prisons right and left during the 1990s, and this bill will require us to do the same thing. We added on to our jail in Memphis and Shelby County in the early 2000s. We will have to add onto that jail again if we go down this road,” said Spickler.

Strickland told Action News 5 earlier in the week the law will deter young people in Memphis from committing violent crimes.

“I want the young person, if they have a gun, to think for a second before they pull that trigger,” Strickland said. “Because if there’s a swift, severe punishment, they are more likely to have second thoughts in doing it.”

Tennessee’s “truth in sentencing” law will take effect July 1.

It will take effect without the governor’s signature.

Governor Bill Lee declined to sign it, saying “data does not support the basic premise of the legislation.”

The governor added the law could lead to “more victims, higher recidivism, increased crime and prison overcrowding, all with an increased cost to taxpayers.”

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