MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new law takes effect July 1 in Tennessee that will keep some criminals locked up longer.
The “Truth in Sentencing” law takes effect. It requires offenders serve 100 percent of their sentence for certain violent crimes like murder, especially aggravated robbery and especially aggravated burglary.
A list of other crimes, including aggravated assault, require 85 percent prison time.
Before, offenders could get out earlier for good behavior and programming credits.
“Forever what the system has been on, that aggravated burglary example, you did 30 percent of that, which is just a matter of months,” said Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich. “Then you did even less than that by the time you took away credits, and good behavior, and honor time for those kinds of things.”
Weirich supports the new law, because it was “frustrating for victims.”
“If you break into a home on July 2 and are sentenced by a judge to three years on that aggravated burglary, you are going to do every bit of that,” she said.
Community leaders, including Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, gave applause at the ceremonial bill signing.
“The criminals in our city are laughing at the system. They know that if they commit a crime and get arrested, they’ll be back on the streets in just a short amount of time,” Strickland said. “That’s unacceptable.”
But critics, including Governor Bill Lee, worry what this will do to prisons.
Some are concerned it will increase populations in understaffed systems, cost taxpayers millions in expenses, and take away incentives for good behavior and reform programs, like getting your GED.
Steve Mulroy, who is running against Amy Weirich for district attorney, stated, “I stand with Gov. Bill Lee in opposing this bill. As Gov. Lee said, we’ve tried this before in Tennessee. It didn’t reduce crime. All it did was balloon our prison budget. This bill will cost over $50 million more a year for prisons. If we spent half of that on youth intervention and reentry, we’d stop more crime and save money.”
Others argue there will be more trials as defendants fight harsher penalties.
“Violent crime has plagued our city,” Strickland said.
Strickland and other proponents believe the law is necessary, and that something has to change as Memphis’s violent crime rate spirals out of control.
“And, you know, we hope with these laws that sometimes somebody will think twice, right? They understand that, now in Tennessee, crime matters, and violent crime means something,” said Weirich.
For a full list of the crimes in the law, click here.