MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A revolving door for criminals in the judicial system could slow down a bit as Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and the county commission recently took a step to reform the bail system.
When it comes to crime in Memphis and Shelby County, there is a familiar rallying cry about a bail system that many say is broken.
“This system is broken, and these repeat offenders keep repeating because there is no deterrent,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.
Bail reform has been top of mind for many elected leaders in Shelby County.
“I think what we’re seeing right now in Memphis is an incredible crime wave, and we continue to see people coming in for multiple charges, being given bail and being released and coming back into the process again,” said Shelby County Commissioner Mick Wright.
The Shelby County Commission recently approved a resolution sponsored by Mick Wright that would bar judicial commissioners from setting bail in some cases.
“I think we’re all feeling less safe. We’re also in an environment in Memphis and the rest of the state where this is a crime wave,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris.
Mayor Lee Harris tweeted Wednesday, “I’m pleased to sign Commissioner Mick Wright’s resolution for more judges to be involved in criminal cases.”
“I would say, if the judges are feeling overwhelmed, then maybe we need some more judges, but we don’t need people who are not accountable and not known to the public and people not elected making these critical decisions for our community,” said Wright.
Right now, the eight judicial commissioners set bail, sign off on protection orders, search warrants, and affidavits showing probable cause for charges along with reviewing misdemeanor citations and other preliminary matters before cases move to General Sessions Criminal Court.
But beginning July 1 in Tennessee, only a general sessions, criminal court or circuit court judge will have jurisdiction to set bond for defendants in Class A and B felonies, along with assault on a first responder and domestic assault.
It’s a move many hope will slow down what’s been called a revolving door for criminals.
Right now, in Tennessee, it’s not only judges but, in some counties, judicial commissioners who can set and approve bail for defendants.