MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A bill touted as making Tennessee’s streets safer is being called into question by those who have committed crimes.
“Originally I was facing six to ten years in federal prison,” Linsday Holloway said.
In 2010, Holloway was charged with possession and selling of stolen weapons.
Holloway developed a drug habit when she was a teenager, and it landed her in and out of the legal system
“I did two months in a federal holding facility and was released to go get treatment. I went to a six-month re-entry program,” she said.
It was a religious program that offered mental and drug treatment. She said she went in with the understanding that if she successfully completed it, she’d have a better chance at avoiding time behind bars.
“If I wouldn’t have been given that chance, I would have just gotten out of prison about two years ago,” she said.
Instead, Holloway founded This is Living Ministries. Her husband, who completed a trade program while in prison for arson, is a part of the team. It’s a re-entry program based in East Tennessee.
“If other people are given the chance, they want to do good. I just wish they wouldn’t take those opportunities away,” Holloway said.
HB 2656, known as the truth in sentencing bill, is making its way through the Tennessee state capitol.
It eliminates the possibility of parole and requires 100% time-served for the following crimes:
- Aggravated assault
- Vehicular homicide
- Aggravated vehicular homicide
- Possessing a firearm or antique firearm during commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony
- Aggravated burglary
- Especially aggravated burglary
- Attempted first degree murder, where the victim suffers serious bodily injury
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Especially aggravated kidnapping
- Aggravated robbery
- Especially aggravated robbery
- Aggravated arson
- The manufacture, delivery, or sale of a controlled substance, where the instant offense is classified as a Class A, B, or C felony and the person has two or more prior convictions for the manufacture, delivery, or sale of a controlled substance classified as a Class A, B, or C felony prior to or at the time of committing the instant offense.
Holloway opposes the bill.
“I just don’t think an umbrella covering for everyone with those charges would be right,” she said.
Right now, if inmates participate in prison programs like job training, classes, and rehabilitation, it can help them get an early release. Holloway thinks if you remove the incentives, inmates won’t sign up for the programs.
“Once they are in there they actually change and they grow, and I think the incentives pulls the majority of the people into it,” Holloway said.
But supporters believe the bill is critical.
Andy Rainer spoke in front of the general assembly last month to say if the law had been in effect, his son Drew would still be alive.
“Drew was a kind, gentle and caring person who was loved by his family and friends,” Rainer said.
On October 3, Memphis police said Rainess Holmes and several men broke into Drew’s home near his college campus.
“They then held Drew and his girlfriend at gunpoint. They threatened to rape and kill her in front of him. Then threatened to kill him. Drew tried to disarm the gunman, and then at some point in the struggle, he was shot in the chest and his girlfriend was shot in the hand,” Rainer said.
WREG investigators reported Holmes was released from jail on an aggravated burglary charge a few months before Drew’s murder. That was on top of a lengthy record.
“This person chose not to take advantage of the opportunities given to him to reform his life. My opinion, he should have been in prison,” Rainer said.
Tenn. Representative John Gillespie, R-Memphis, is a co-sponsor of the bill. He says violent offenders are getting out almost immediately because of parole, good behavior and time served awaiting trial. He says this bill provides transparency.
“They get ten years, they go to jail for 10 years,” he said.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland also supports the bill.
“Our state law is too weak when it comes to sentencing violent criminals,” he said.
Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich and Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis have shown support. It has even been added it to the most recent crime fighting plan.
But Holloway thinks it will backfire. She said the more inmates who don’t enter rehabilitation programs, will never address the problems that led them into crime in the first place.
“Yes, I agree we all need to do the punishment for our crime, but there also has to be a form of redemption,” she said.
The Tenneessee Department of Corrections estimates the bill will cost around $90 million more a year.