The Tennessee General Assembly unanimously passed a bill allowing counties to create centers focused on transitioning inmates from incarceration to society. The bill also authorizes these facilities, referred to as “transition centers,” to partner with nonprofit organizations with programs to reduce recidivism. The Senate passed the bill without discussion on Thursday.
This bill is one of several proposed by Governor Bill Lee as part of his crime reform initiatives. The overall goal of this legislation was focused on reducing recidivism rates and increasing successful reintegration rates.
State Representative Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville), the initial sponsor of the bill, explained during the House’s third and final hearing that the language of the bill allowed for Blunt, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, and Sevier counties and their courts to establish these shared facilities related to education.
“[I]t is a new and permissive concept which could be compared to a regional jail for existing low-risk inmates for the purpose of providing trade-related education,” said Ramsey.
Prior to Senate passage, the bill had two additional components.
Originally, the legislation authorized local governments to contract and partner with Tennessean community colleges and colleges of applied technology to provide educational and workforce development programs.
The original legislation also authorized the Tennessee Board of Regents to contract with sheriffs’ departments or any official overseeing county jails or workhouses. Together, the bill would permit them to develop reentry programs.
A House amendment to the bill struck those provisions earlier this month.
The Senate further amended the bill to include the provision allowing Tennessee transition centers to partner with nonprofits that provide recidivism reduction programs.
The estimated fiscal impact for Tennessee to implement and operate new transition centers – who may also contract with nonprofits for reduced recidivism programs – was deemed insignificant.
The bill now heads to Lee’s desk for final approval.
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