NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s commonly known as the “Truth in Sentencing” bill.
“How do you make sure that both the defendant and the victim within the criminal justice system know how long a sentence is going to be?” Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland) said. “Because unless you know how long a sentence is going to be, you really don’t have justice.”
HB2656, passed this year, made it so that people convicted of violent crimes serve 100% of their sentence with no chance of reduction.
“The Truth in Sentencing bill was not needed because we already have a parole board that regulates whether or not someone is eligible to be released from prison,” CEO of Dismas House Kay Kretsch said. “So, we added a layer of reform that was all about retribution.”
Dismas House is a social services organization that helps rehabilitate former prisoners back into society.
“We have someone who is here with us and he got his degree,” Kretsch said. “We have another one who committed a crime at 18, he got out at age 45 at his first parole hearing, and he got a master’s degree.”
Lamberth co-sponsored the bill, whose prime sponsor was Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), along with 34 other Republican House representatives.
“For those that want to be rehabilitated, we’ll have programs for them,” Lamberth said. “But if they have a 10-year sentence, they’re going to serve 10 years. If they don’t like that, they can not commit the crime.”
Critics of the bill have also argued that it takes away incentives for good behavior and could lead to fuller prisons and more money taken from Tennesseans’ pockets.
“Everyone deserves a chance,” Kretsch said. “So, we don’t know the particular circumstances of an individual and why it led up to a crime.”
But proponents say it’s worth it for the families of victims involved.
“I’ve seen family after family after family have to go to the parole board and beg them to just leave the person in prison,” Lamberth said.
The law went into effect on July 1.