Tennessee General Assembly Passes Criminal Justice Reform Bills Allowing Community-Based Incarceration Alternatives, Increasing Parole Eligibility

Two of Governor Bill Lee’s criminal justice reform initiatives were passed unanimously by the Tennessee Senate on Wednesday. Once approved by the governor, the bills will expand community-based incarceration alternatives and parole eligibility, respectively.

The sponsors on the legislation were State Senators John Stevens (R-Huntington) for the former bill and Ken Yager (R-Kingston) for the latter. State Representative Michael Curcio (R-Dickson) was the House sponsor for both.

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House Passes Bill Increasing Inmate Parole Eligibility, Reduces Punishment for Breaking Parole

On Thursday, the Tennessee House passed a bill increasing parole eligibility and reducing parole violation punishments for inmates. The “Reentry Success Act of 2021” creates a presumption that eligible inmates must be granted parole on their eligibility date.

Additionally, parole violations that aren’t felonies or Class A misdemeanors would result in 15 days’ imprisonment for the first violation, 30 days for the second, 90 days for the third, and either one year or the remainder of the prisoner’s sentence for the fourth – whichever is the shorter of the two. Other changes to present law under the Reentry Success Act of 2021 include clarification that victims may submit videos for their victim impact statements, and waiving certain application costs for restricted drivers licenses. Felonies or Class A misdemeanors committed as part of parole violation would require prisoners to serve out the maximum of their sentence.

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Tennessee House Passes Bill Allowing Community-Based Incarceration Alternatives

The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) is one step closer to contracting with local governments or outside entities and organizations to create community-based incarceration alternatives. These alternatives would include drug treatment and mental health programs.

The House passed a bill encompassing those provisions on Thursday, 89-1. Only State Representative Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) voted against the bill. State Representative Michael Curcio (R-Dickson) and State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) sponsored the bill.

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Lee’s Criminal Justice Reform Focuses on Re-Entry, Imprisonment Alternatives

Bill Lee

Gov. Bill Lee has promised criminal justice reform in Tennessee, and several of his proposed bills that are set to move forward in coming weeks could have a significant effect on those in the state’s prison system.

“I’ve been thinking about it for 20 years,” Lee said recently during a roundtable he held on the subject last week. “Now, we’re in spot in Tennessee to really make substantive change.”

Many of the changes proposed in the bills and in Lee’s amended budget aim to reduce the prison population while focusing on re-entry for nonviolent offenders.

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Governor Lee Hosts Criminal Justice Reform Round Table with Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Others

Governor Bill Lee hosted a roundtable to discuss criminal justice reform on Wednesday, as part of a national conservative campaign called “Right on Crime.” The discussion centered on the general agreement that rehabilitation should be emphasized more for prisoners. No specifics were offered during the roundtable.

On the call were Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Speaker of the House; Pat Nolan, Director Emeritus of the American Conservative Union Foundation Nolan Center for Justice; Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas and former Trump Administration U.S. Secretary of Energy; Brook Rollins, former Trump Administration acting director of the U.S. Domestic Policy Council and former president and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation; and Josh Smith, a member of Lee’s Criminal Justice Reinvestment Task Force. 

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In Debate, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Discuss Gun Violence and the Parole Board

The five Democratic candidates for governor met for the first televised debate on Tuesday evening where they discussed issues including the economic crisis, gun violence, marijuana legalization, the Virginia Parole Board, and vaccine hesitancy. For the most part, the candidates stuck to discussing their own policies, but occasionally turned to attack perceived front-runner McAuliffe.

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Bill Proposes Sweeping Reforms on Incarceration Alternatives and Probation Stipulations

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.

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State Rep. Michael Curcio Talks Broadband Access and Criminal Justice

Wednesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed State Rep. Michael Curcio of district 69 to the newsmakers line to discuss his criminal justice legislation and updates on rural broadband connectivity.

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Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice Call for More Criminal Justice Reform

A group of Commonwealth’s Attorneys has released a letter to the General Assembly calling for more criminal justice reform. In the letter, the Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice (VPPFJ) call for automated expungement of criminal records, ending mandatory minimum sentences, ending cash bail, abolishing the death penalty, and ending the “three-strikes” felony enhancement for petty larceny.

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Signes Criminal Justice Reform Bills

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Monday signed a package of 20 criminal justice reform bills into law.

The bills, championed by the bipartisan Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, are intended to prioritize incarceration alternatives and grant law enforcement officers more discretion when issuing appearance tickets rather than making arrests; and restructure penalties for traffic offenses. 

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Michigan Senate Passes Sweeping Criminal Justice Reforms

The Michigan Senate passed bipartisan criminal justice reform bills that aim to protect public safety, keep nonviolent offenders out of jail, and make it easier for people to get jobs.

House Bills 5844 and 5854-5857 aim to reform a wide range of mandatory minimum sentences to allow judges discretion in sentencing nonviolent, minor crimes to account for collateral damages of the criminal justice system like broken families.

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Senate Lawmakers Pass Conference Report for Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

During potentially the final day of the lengthy 2020 special session, Senate legislators adopted and passed the conference committee report on a bill that allows judges in certain criminal cases to issue the sentences instead of the jury. 

The conference report that was unanimously agreed upon by the six conferees, two Republicans and two Democrats, passed the Senate by an almost exact party line vote of (Y-22 N-16). 

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Gade: Democrats Will Destroy America as We Know It

At the 41st annual GOP Pig Roast U.S. Senate candidate Daniel Gade warned that American values are at risk if the Democrats gain power.

“The Left in the United States have decided that now is the time when they come after our values. And they’ve openly said what they’re going to do if, God forbid, they win the presidency and if, God forbid, they win and they take the Senate,” Gade said in his speech.

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Virginia House Passes $134B Budget with Rental and Utility Assistance, Justice and Police Reform Funding

The Virginia House of Delegates passed its two-year $134 billion budget on Tuesday with specific funding for rental and utility assistance, public education, internet access, affordable housing, criminal justice and police reform.

The revised budget from the House does not perfectly lineup with the proposed budget Governor Ralph Northam presented to the General Assembly at the beginning of the 2020 special session.

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Virginia House Passes Mental Health, Earned Sentence Credit Reforms

The Virginia House passed four more pieces of criminal justice reform legislation that will be sent to the Senate, including mandatory local mental health teams, more restrictions on police acquiring military surplus weapons and an expansion of the earned sentence credit program.

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Bill to End Mandatory Minimum Sentences Blocked by Virginia Senate Committee

Legislation that would have banned the enforcement of mandatory minimum sentencing in Virginia was killed in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday after some Democrats joined Republicans in their opposition.

Senate Bill 5046, sponsored by Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, effectively would have ended all mandatory minimums in Virginia by halting their enforcement for offenses committed on or after Jan. 1, 2021. Although reforming mandatory minimum laws has bipartisan support, SB 5046 did not provide exemptions for violent crimes, such as murder or rape, which led to it ultimately failing.

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Police, Criminal Justice Reform Advocates Share Some Views Ahead of Legislative Special Session

Police officers and criminal justice reform advocates share some common ground going into Virginia’s special session to address policing reform, but the two groups break apart on some of the more controversial reforms.

“We are as repulsed by bad police officers … as anyone [else],” Wayne Huggins, executive director of the Virginia State Police Association, told Virginia House members Thursday during the last criminal justice reform hearing ahead of the special session, which convenes Aug. 18.

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Ohio House Democrats Introduce Three More Bills Focused on Reforming the State’s Law Enforcement Conduct

Ohio House Democrats introduced three new pieces of legislation Thursday aimed at reforming police officer conduct in the state.

With the addition of these three new proposals, House Democrats have introduced four pieces of legislation this week that focused on police conduct and procedures. House Bill 706, the first bill the Democrats introduced on Tuesday, focused on implementing more training for state law enforcement.

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Ohio House Democrats Introduce Criminal Justice Reform Bill That Would Require More Training for Law Enforcement

Ohio House Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday that seeks to implement more training for state law enforcement officers.

In House Bill 706, whose primary sponsors are state Reps. Erica C. Crawley (D-Columbus) and Thomas West (D-Canton), would require police to undergo training in de-escalation techniques, mental health issues, implicit bias.

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Judson Phillips Commentary: The Left’s Next Target

Judson Phillips

You can reflexively oppose anything the left supports and almost never to worry about being wrong.  Unfortunately, many conservatives have fallen for the shiny object that is being dangled in front of them by the left called, “criminal justice reform.”

The American criminal justice system is not perfect and like any other system, there are always improvements and corrections that can be made.  Unfortunately, most of the reforms the left is suggesting make things worse, not better.

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Judson Phillips Commentary: Bill Lee Strikes Out Again

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.”

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Whitmer Task Force Recommends Sweeping Changes to Criminal Justice System, Including Three-Year Probation Cap

A Michigan task force established by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has recommended a number of sweeping changes to the state’s criminal justice system, including lowering probation terms and reclassifying most traffic offenses as civil infractions.

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Men of Valor Holds All-Day Criminal Justice Reform and Addiction Conference, Featuring Governor Bill Lee as the Keynote Speaker

Featuring Governor Bill Lee as the keynote speaker, Men of Valor, the men’s Christian prison ministry, held an all-day criminal justice reform conference Wednesday at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel in downtown Nashville.

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Asks Supreme Court to Define ‘Completion of Sentence’ in Felon-Voting Dispute

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants the Florida Supreme Court to issue an advisory opinion on whether convicted felons must pay all fines and fees before their voting rights are restored under Amendment 4, the November 2018 ballot measure approved by 64.5 percent of state voters.

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Criminal Justice Reform: Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi Joins the Report and Says, ‘There’s a Better Way to Do It’

On Tuesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Gill chatted with Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi who was in town for the National Conference of State Legislators in Nashville today to talk about his commitment to criminal justice reform.

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Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin Joins Governor Bill Lee for Criminal Justice Reform Symposium in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – A symposium on criminal justice reform held in Nashville featured an hour-long conversation between Governors Bill Lee of Tennessee and Matt Bevin of Kentucky. The symposium was held in the “appellate courtroom” at the Randall and Sadie Baskin Center of the College of Law, located on the…

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The Tennessee Star Report: Justin Owen from the Beacon Center Talks About Governor Lee’s Plan to Reform the Tennessee Criminal Justice System

In a specific discussion on Monday morning’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – host Steve Gill talked in depth with the Beacon Centers CEO, Justin Owen about the…

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The Tennessee Star Report EXCLUSIVE Interview With Incoming Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada

On Wednesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Gill and Leahy talked with State Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin), the incoming Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives about…

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Ten Laws That Spell Major Changes for Ohio in 2019

In terms of legislation, 2018 may be considered one of Ohio’s most impactful years in recent history. From the approval of the first medicinal marijuana dispensary to new abortion limitations, 2019 will see a dramatic change for many Ohioans. Compiled below are ten of the most significant changes coming to the…

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Newly Elected Tennessee State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson Talks with The Tennessee Star Report

On Tuesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy and special guest co-host, Harriet Wallace of Fox 17 – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am –spoke to newly elected official Senate Majority Leader, Jack Johnson of Williamson…

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Local Ministry ‘Men of Valor’ Expecting Record-Breaking Turnout for Annual Breakfast Featuring Grammy Artist Zach Williams

Men of Valor, a local ministry working with the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated in Middle Tennessee, is preparing to host their largest-ever Annual Breakfast Tuesday, where organizers say more than 1000 people are expected to gather for the once-a-year fundraiser. “We’re thrilled to have such a large turnout this year,” Men of Valor…

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