“Ceremonial signing” of truth in sentencing legislation

Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 9:39 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The push to keep certain violent criminals behind bars for their entire sentences is another step closer to becoming law in Tennessee.

Top Republican leaders stopped in the Bluff City for a ceremonial signing of Tennessee’s truth in sentencing bill.

The legislation going into effect July 1 includes violent crimes like attempted first degree murder, carjacking, second degree murder, robbery, burglary and more.

Those crimes will require 100 percent of a sentence to be served. Many Memphis and Shelby County leaders and members of law enforcement have shown strong support for this bill even driving to Nashville to advocate for it.

But some say this won’t reduce crime and want legislators to go back to the drawing board.

“The criminals in our city are laughing at the system,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. “They know if they commit a crime and get arrested, they’ll be back on the streets in just a short amount of time.”

Tennessee’s truth in sentencing legislation passed with bipartisan support from lawmakers in Shelby County, but without the support of Governor Bill Lee who says it would cost too much without reducing crime.

Cardell Orrin with Stand for Children Tennessee agrees.

“Especially for people who are representing a majority Black community like Memphis and Shelby County,” said Orrin. “It’s just completely disconnected from what we need to see to support the development of our community.”

Josh Spickler with Just City says previous legislation similar to this overcrowded prisons. He’d like lawmakers to look at other options.

“Libraries, summer programs for youth, restorative practices in schools, lighting, nutrition, healthcare, education,” said Spickler. “All of these things impact crime and I would rather see our leadership take a holistic multi-faceted, complicated Yes, but mature approach to how we’re going to drive down crime because that’s what works.”

General assembly staff estimate recurring increase in incarceration costs will be more than $25 million over the next 10 years.

“Some people will question the cost of this and some people will question the usefulness of something like this,” said House Speaker Cameron Sexton. “But when you make comments about that you’re discounting every single victim that has faced acts like this.”

Other crimes included in this legislation require 85% of time served. Governor Lee chose not to sign or veto the bill, therefore it automatically becomes law July 1.

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