Truth in sentencing becomes Tennessee law without Gov. Bill Lee’s signature

Truth in sentencing becomes Tennessee law without Gov. Bill Lee’s signature

May 13, 2022 0 By Jon Styf

Gov. Bill Lee allowed a truth in sentencing bill to become law without his signature, but his criticism of the bill’s possible cost received a reply from legislative leaders.

Senate Bill 2248 passed the Tennessee Legislature on the final day of session. The law declares eight categories of crime that will require those convicted to serve 100% of their sentences.

Those crimes are attempted first-degree murder, second-degree murder, vehicular homicide with driver intoxication, aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated kidnapping, robbery and burglary and carjacking.

“Data does not support the basic premise of the legislation,” Lee wrote to the speakers in a message reported by the Tennessee Journal. “Similar legislation has been enacted before and resulted in significant operational and financial strain, with no reduction in crime. Widespread evidence suggests that this policy will result in more victims, higher recidivism, increased crime, and prison overcrowding, all with an increased cost to taxpayers. For these reasons, I have chosen not to sign the bill.”

Both speakers then responded.

“You can protect criminals or you can protect victims,” wrote House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville. “I stand with victims, as do members of law enforcement, our district attorneys, and criminal judges across Tennessee. In 2020, the U.S. Sentencing Commission published a study stating stronger sentencing has a statistically significant deterrent effect by reducing crime and lowering recidivism. That’s why Tennessee’s law enforcement community stood behind us and supported this legislation.

“Sometimes, we need to use common-sense approaches; more violent criminals in jail for longer periods means less crime and fewer victims. Softer sentences mean more crime and more victims.”

The bill also identifies 20 categories of crime that would require at least 85% of the sentence to be served before eligibility for release.

It has a fiscal note that it would eventually cost the state $25.4 million annually in additional incarceration costs.

“Truth in Sentencing is vital legislation that not only offers justice and transparency to victims but also acts as a critical deterrent against violent offenders,” said Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge. “The costs associated with the legislation are well worth the peace of mind offered to victims and the overall boost to public safety. While I disagree with Governor Lee’s critique of the bill, I appreciate his willingness to work with Speaker Sexton and I to get the bill in a posture to avoid a veto. I am grateful this bill is now the law of the land in Tennessee.”

This article was originally posted on Truth in sentencing becomes Tennessee law without Gov. Bill Lee’s signature