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Tennessee to soon have toughest penalties in U.S. for violent criminals

The law will make some of the most violent offenses mandatory 100% sentences in Tennessee.
Truth in Sentencing Bill to Become Law
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 5:59 PM CDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Tennessee will soon have the toughest penalties in the United States for violent criminals. It’s because of “Truth in Sentencing,” a law that will take effect on July 1, 2022.

The law will make some of the most violent offenses mandatory 100% sentences. Those include: attempted first-degree murder, second-degree murder, vehicular homicide resulting from intoxication, aggravated vehicular homicide, especially aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated robbery, carjacking, and especially aggravated burglary.

“This bill’s been needed for a long time,” Gary Christian, said. His daughter, Channon, and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, were brutally killed in 2007.

The new bill could have allowed Christian and Newsom to live.

“If this would’ve been in place for the Newsoms and the Christians, those crimes would’ve never been committed,” Tennessee House Speaker (R), Cameron Sexton, said.

Christian said two of the five convicted killers would have still been in prison.

“It’ll stop the revolving door in prisons, where you have people getting out and committing crimes again,” Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R), said.

In the past, the Knox County District Attorney General, Charme Allen, said the DA’s office had no idea how long it would take for someone to hit a parole date or to hit an out date.

“We can now sit down as prosecutors and actually look at a victim and actually give them an out date,” Allen said.

Democrat State Representative Gloria Johnson is not on board.

“This is a complete waste of our tax dollars. If harsher sentences fixed crime, Tennessee would be the safest place in the country,” Johnson said. “We need evidence based approaches to addressing public safety. Unfortunately, this is lawmaking by bumper sticker politics.”

But Christian disagreed.

He said, “The kind of people that committed a crime against Chris and Channon, prison doesn’t reform them. Reform is not for them.”

He believed this bill could bring others a sense of peace.

“I hope that families never have to experience what we did, to start with, but if they do then maybe this bill will help them in the future,” Christian said.

The bill also allows lower-level violent criminals to earn programming, such as drug and mental health treatment, education, job training, etc. credits that may reduce their sentence from 100 to 85% for the following crimes: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, strangulation or attempted strangulation, voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault against a nurse or first responder, vehicular homicide, reckless homicide, aggravated kidnapping, involuntary labor servitude, trafficking, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, aggravated arson, possessing a firearm during the commission or attempt to committee a dangerous felony, and manufacture, delivery or sale of a controlled substance.

The bill becomes law on July 1.

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