by Judson Phillips
In October, something that has been very underreported happened. It is something that Tennesseans should know about and be very worried about.
One of Governor Bill Lee’s pet objectives is criminal justice reform. In October, while speaking to the GOP Senate Republican Caucus, Lee said, “We can empty our jails in the same way that some other states have done. I know we can do that.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
As a part of criminal justice reform, Bill Lee wants to “empty our jails.” Jails and prisons are there for a reason and there is a certain part of the population that has committed horrible crimes, that belongs in prison. People who are a threat to society or are unlikely to show up for their court date stay in jail.
Do we really want to follow the lead of other states with criminal justice “reform?”
In New York, they have criminal justice reform and it is a revolving door at the jail house. Criminals arrested with lengthy records and histories of not appearing in court, are released without bail. New York’s communist Mayor Bill de Blasio has resorted to giving away Mets tickets and gift cards to incentivize the criminals to show up in court. In New York, criminals commit a crime, are arrested, immediately released again under their no-bail law and commit another crime. One criminal said, after his fifth arrest under the no-bail law, “I’m surprised you let me out again.”
In California, property crimes are almost not prosecuted. It is a common even now to see gangs walk into stores and run out with armfuls of expensive clothing or consumer electronics, knowing they will never be prosecuted.
Taylor Budowich works for President Trump’s reelection campaign. At Christmas, his girlfriend had $5,000 worth of luggage stolen from her car in Sacramento, California. The criminals were even caught on video, with enough clarity to read the car’s license plate. The Sacramento Sheriff told Budowich that nothing could be done because the criminals were from Oakland and Oakland does not “pursue property crimes.”
In San Francisco, people urinate and defecate in the streets and even in stores, because the laws are not enforced. And now there is a new wave of “social justice” district attorneys being elected in major cities, who are more interested in not prosecuting crimes than they are in enforcing the laws of the state.
Tennessee has a robust criminal code. It is not perfect and there are certain things that could be changed. For example, the best reform Tennessee could enact is returning the power to sentence to the jury.
Prior to 1982, in Tennessee, if a jury found someone guilty of a crime, the jury, not the judge imposed the sentence. In 1982, the state legislature (then controlled by Democrats), “reformed” the system to make sentencing more “consistent.” That was left speak for making sentences lighter.
The United States has lived through an era of empty the jails. It was in the 60’s and 70’s. Liberals emptied America’s jails and the result was the tough on crime 80’s and 90’s. There was a reason harsh sentencing laws were passed in both the 80’s and 90’s.
It was a response to the very policies Bill Lee advocates now.
Bill Lee ran on being a conservative and a lot of the movement conservatives in this state went along for the ride. Now in office, Lee is either the most tone-deaf “conservative” to sit in the governor’s mansion or he isn’t really a conservative.
A lot of Tennessee conservatives are starting to believe the latter.
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Judson Phillips is a long time conservative pundit and founder of Tea Party Nation.