Court rules Tennessee probation overhaul unconstitutional

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee appeals court has ruled that Gov. Bill Haslam’s overhaul of the state’s probation system is unconstitutional, saying it violates defendant’s rights.

The Tennessean reports the court also ruled Tuesday that the overhaul encroaches on judicial powers by allowing probation officers to issue punishments to probation violators. It also said due process wasn’t being provided as defendants cannot challenge new punishments in court with an attorney.

Haslam has said those changes by the Public Safety Act of 2016 were meant to keep people from being imprisoned for low-level probation violations.

State Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield has said 40 percent of new inmates were imprisoned on those violations, which Haslam spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals says has been reduced.

A state’s attorney general’s office spokeswoman says officials are reviewing the decision.

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