The General Assembly is considering sweeping criminal justice reforms, namely concerning incarceration alternatives and probation. The proposed legislative changes, filed on the same day by State Representative William Lamberth (R-Portland) and State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), are lengthy.
In part, the bill would expand those who qualify for community-based incarceration alternatives addressing substance abuse or mental health rehabilitation. It would also provide new avenues for individuals who break probation to have their probation reinstated (2 years at most), receive incarceration alternatives, or be shielded from extensive sentencing. It also caps probation sentencing to 8 years for felony offenses.
So far, only State Representatives Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) and G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) recorded their ‘no’ votes against the bill in committee. No Senate votes have occurred yet.
Griffey explained in committee that he was concerned about aspects of the bill that would limit judges’ ability to set the amount of incarceration they can give for certain offenders who violate their probation.
During the bill’s hearing in the House Government Operations Committee on Monday, Curcio said that this bill would allow individuals opportunities to reform their habits, behaviors, and ultimately their lives.
“Many of us know, unfortunately, with the proliferation of mental health and substance abuse, I know a lot of us in rural communities have seen kids that have unfortunately become addicted to various painkillers, all sorts of stuff that [then] gets them involved in the criminal justice system,” stated Curcio. “For those that commit violent crimes, unfortunately they’ve reached a point of no return where they’ve got to go into the system. For those that are caught up in addiction and mental health issues, what we know is that drug courts work – the only problem with drug courts, I like to say, is that there’s not enough of them.”
Estimated fiscal impact of the bill outlined millions in annual decreases in state expenditures and local revenues.
The bill has passed through several committees in the House already – on Monday, it was recommended for passage by the Finance, Ways, and Means Committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider the bill next Tuesday.
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