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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Proposed Bill Wants General Assembly to Have Final Say on Agencies Created Under Governor’s Emergency Powers

Legislators are considering whether the General Assembly should have the final say on agencies created by governor executive order.

A proposed bill would empower lawmakers to review any executive agencies created through the governor’s emergency powers. Specifically, the Joint Committee on Government Operations would decide within 60 days whether the executive agency should be allowed to exist, and notify the General Assembly within 5 days of the completion of the review.

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