MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Despite spending over a billion dollars a year and sending more people to prison, Tennessee communities are no safer than they were a decade ago.That's the major conclusion from Governor Bill Lee's criminal justice investment task force.
The task force just released its interim report, detailing problems with Tennessee's criminal justice system that have led to a high recidivism rate and 23 recommendations to fix them.
Lee created the task force through an executive order in March, with the goal to help develop policies to reduce recidivism and improve public safety.
In August, the task force began reviewing the state's sentencing and corrections data, policies, practices, and programs. It also looked at what other states were doing.
Among the task force's key findings:
- Tennessee's prison population grew 12 percent over the last decade, primarily because of longer sentences and fewer paroles
- Three out of every four new prisoners in FY 2018 were serving time for non-violent crimes
- Over half of prisoners released from custody are back in jail within three years
- Half of local county jails are overcrowded
- An increasing number of prisoners are women, with the state ranking 11th highest in the nation for female incarceration
With lawmakers set to return to Nashville in less than three weeks, the task force made 23 recommendations.
The recommendations include:
- Expanding access to sentencing alternatives, like probation and treatment programs
- Help more inmates transition successfully back into society
- Increase educational opportunities
- Improve community supervision programs
- Reduce probation terms
- Streamline the parole process
- Rewrite the sentencing code (replacing the current one from 1989)
Governor Lee says he is looking forward to reviewing all the task force's recommendations.
"My administration is committed to addressing public safety and reentry throughout Tennessee, and I'm grateful to have the support of the members of this Task Force," said Gov. Lee. "Dedicated leaders from across our state have come together to address this important issue, and I look forward to reviewing their recommendations."
The full interim task force report can be found here.
To read the recommendations from victim’s roundtables, click here.