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Violent Crimes, Prescription Drug Abuses Targeted

The Haslam administration announced a plan Thursday aimed at deterring violent crime and curbing repeat offenses. The reforms will cost more than $6 million, officials estimated.

The Haslam administration wants to take a stab at cracking down on violent crimes and shrinking the recidivism rate by beefing up prison sentences, a task officials expect will cost taxpayers $6 million annually.

Gov. Bill Haslam is also asking lawmakers to adopt a comprehensive approach to tackling the state’s prescription drug problem by making it easier for law enforcement to track addicts and keep a better eye on ex-convicts by requiring the Department of Correction to take over supervision of parolees.

“While we see an improvement, Tennessee continues to have a violent crime rate that’s above the national average that none of us find acceptable,” the governor said on Capitol Hill Thursday.

The total price tag for the entire package of reforms could be higher, according to Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons, who couldn’t provide specific cost tallies, but said expenses for the prescription drug and parolee reforms would be minimal. Attempts to reach agency officials for details were unsuccessful as of this posting.

The program would provide a “road map” which would take several years to fully implement. Going into 2012, officials want the Legislature to begin by beefing up punishment for repeat domestic violence offenders, gun-wielding ex-convicts and people involved in gang-related crimes.

“All three deal with areas that (district attorneys), police chiefs and sheriffs have been pushing for years,” said Gibbons. “We didn’t reinvent the wheel here. We listened to law enforcement and tried to act upon their recommendations.”

The administrative initiative would also relax punishment for non-violent drug offenders and send them to drug courts, which Gibbons said would eventually save the state $4 million annually.

The plan would also give law enforcement more tools for identifying and disciplining people who abuse prescription drugs, officials said.

The safety reforms are the product of the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet Working Group, a band of commissioners and administrators from 11 state agencies. The plan includes 11 objectives and 40 action steps.

Some of the ideas can be implemented by the administration while others will take legislative approval.

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