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Witnesses Announced for Mid-Sept Criminal Justice Reform Hearing

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; August 26, 2014:

(NASHVILLE, TN) August 26, 2014 – Senator Brian Kelsey today released the names of the witnesses scheduled to testify regarding proposed criminal justice reforms in Tennessee. The hearing will occur before the Senate Judiciary Committee September 15 – 16.

“These experts will help us learn from other states how to best protect the public while saving taxpayer dollars. Our committee is privileged to partner with such talented witnesses in the effort to improve the criminal justice system in Tennessee,” explained Senator Kelsey.

The witnesses will provide testimony on the following three subjects: 1) Criminal Justice Reform: How we got where we are in Tennessee, 2) Criminal Justice Reform: What other states have done, and 3) Criminal Justice Reform: Suggested changes for Tennessee.

The scheduled witnesses for the hearings are as follows:

  • Sheriff Robert Arnold, Rutherford County
  • Beth Ashe, Executive Director, Tennessee Corrections Institute
  • Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper
  • District Attorney General D. Michael Dunavant, 25th Judicial District, Fayette, Hardeman, Lauderdale, McNairy, and Tipton Counties
  • Paige Edwards, Tennessee Public Defender’s Conference
  • Rebecca Silber and Nancy Fishman, VERA Institute of Justice
  • Tommy Francis, Tennessee State Employees Association
  • Mayor Terry Frank, Anderson County, Tennessee
  • Commissioner Bill Gibbons, Tennessee Department of Safety
  • Mark Gwyn, Director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • Marc Levin, Director, Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation
  • Mayor Mark Luttrell, Shelby County, Tennessee
  • John G. Malcolm, Director, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies
  • Richard Montgomery, Chairman, Tennessee Board of Parole
  • Justin Owen, President/CEO, Beacon Center of Tennessee
  • Chief David Rausch, Knoxville Police Department
  • David Raybin, Esq., criminal defense attorney
  • Justyna Scalpone, Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender
  • Commissioner Derrick D. Schofield, Tennessee Department of Correction
  • Chris Slobogin, Professor, Vanderbilt College of Law; member, Tennessee Consultation on Criminal Justice
  • District Attorney General Barry Staubus, 2nd Judicial District, Sullivan County, Tennessee
  • Thomas E. Tique, Chief Deputy Attorney, Tennessee General Assembly Office of Legal Services
  • Commissioner E. Douglas Varney, Tennessee Department of Mental Health
  • Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director, ACLU of Tennessee
  • Charlie White, Director, Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents
  • Judge John Everett Williams, Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown. He is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

TN Drug Court Oversight Shifted to State Mental Health Dept.

Press Release from Gov. Bill Haslam; June 13, 2013:

Transfers Programs to Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse Services

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced an executive order to change the management and oversight of state drug court programs as part of his administration’s ongoing effort to increase government efficiency and effectiveness.

Executive Order No. 12 transfers the drug court programs from the Department of Finance and Administration (F&A) to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) effective July 1, 2012.

TDMHSAS oversees the licensing and funding for indigent Tennesseans needing substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery support services.  The transfer of the drug courts to TDMHSAS will lessen duplication of effort and align with the department’s role as the substance abuse authority in the state.

“Management and oversight of Tennessee’s drug court programs are consistent with the focus of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and we believe it makes more sense for the department to manage these programs,” Haslam said.

Drug courts were established as an alternative to jails and prisons and are designed to foster recovery. For many arrested on drug-related offenses, prison is not the answer, and research has shown treatment costs are lower than costs associated with incarceration.

Drug courts refer clients to substance abuse community agencies that provide intervention and treatment services, which are funded, contracted and licensed by TDMHSAS. The department and the Office of Criminal Justice Services in F&A have had discussions about transitioning the programs and are prepared for a smooth transition.

“We are facing a major prescription drug problem in our state,” TDMHSAS Commissioner Doug Varney said. “We need to focus all of our resources in the most efficient, effective and collaborative way to maximize our impact on this issue and drug abuse overall.”

Drug court activities are also closely aligned with other programs currently overseen by TDMHSAS. For additional information about Tennessee’s drug court programs or other mental health and substance abuse programs please contact TDMHSAS’ Office of Communications at (615) 253-4812 or visit www.tn.gov/mental.