Bills seek tougher sentencing for convicted rapists, aggravated burglars

Toughening sentencing for convicted rapist and aggravated burglars
Mike Dunavant (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Mike Dunavant (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Two bills in the Tennessee Legislature could amend current law by toughening sentencing for convicted rapist and aggravated burglars.

Tennessee law currently allows for convicted aggravated burglars to qualify for diversion if it is their first offense. Also, those convicted of forcible rape, are allowed to get probation instead jail time.

"The most violent among us should be incarcerated," District Attorney Mike Dunavant of the 25th District said.

Dunavant said in the last three years approximately 62 people in Tennessee were put on the program designed to keep first time offenders out of jail.

Dunavant estimates around 11 convicted rapist were placed on probation in the last three years.

"It's a serious offense, not just against property but against that homeowner and the person that lives there," Dunavant said about aggravated burglary.

The bill amendments would take probation off the table for those convicted of forcible rape, and it would take diversion off the table for aggravated burglary.

"It's a massive system that needs a lot of change in a lot of different ways," said Deborah Clubb, with the Memphis Area Women's Council.

Deborah Clubb is an advocate for sexual assault victims. She said the current Tennessee laws allowing convicted rapist to walk away with just a slap on the wrist, is a slap in the face to victims.

"It's just really unfair to the victims and survivors who take the extreme courage to go to court," Clubb said.

But with tougher sentencing comes higher incarceration cost.

Dunavant said it comes down to prioritizing tax payer dollars for everyone's safety.

"Putting our dollars to the best use for the most violent offenses that are being committed," Dunavant said.

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