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Sen. Henry Sponsors Tougher Sentencing For Hardened Criminals

Press Release from Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville; March 30, 2010:

Bill Will Increase Jail Time For Armed Robbers, Save State Money

NASHVILLE – Armed robbers will spend a minimum of nearly six years in prison under a bill passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday and sponsored by State Sen. Douglas Henry (D-Nashville).

“Our budget crunch will limit severely our capacity to build new prisons in the coming years. This legislation allows us to use our space wisely while keeping the most dangerous criminals out of our communities,” Henry said

Under the bill (SB3431/HB2813), first-time convicted armed robbers would be forced to serve at least 74 percent of their sentences before becoming eligible for release. Current law provides for a minimum of 30 percent.

To create the necessary jail space, about 600 small-time criminals would be moved from jail to community corrections programs, in which they would be required to work and pay restitution to their victims. The move would save the state more than $261,000, according to a legislative fiscal analysis.

“We can put property offenders to work for our community, while keeping violent offenders off the streets,” Henry said.

Metro Nashville Police Chief Ronal Serpas supports the legislation, as do the Chiefs of Police in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis; the state’s District Attorneys and the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police.

“As police chiefs, we must carefully consider our obligation to putting public safety first,” Serpas said. “When we, as a state, are forced to make a choice between who occupies a prison bed, the answer is clear: public safety will always favor incarcerating the violent armed criminal over a non-violent property offender.”

The House version of the bill, sponsored by Nashville Rep. Gary Odom, passed in the House Finance Committee today and likely will go to the House floor soon.

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