Violent crime has become a huge concern for the citizens of Tennessee, most recently in Chattanooga where there has been a definite increase in shootings and other violent crime. Many blame gang activity and various drug activity. As we have witnessed in recent months, the combination of both can prove particularly dangerous.
The plan focuses on three areas: decreasing violent crime, cutting the rate at which criminals commit new crimes, and reducing prescription and methamphetamine abuse.
Here is a rundown of the different aspects of the proposed plan:
- Domestic Violence: One of the aspects of the plan would impose mandatory minimum sentences for domestic violence offenses. A second domestic violence offense would receive a mandatory minimum of 45 days in prison; a third offense would receive a mandatory minimum of 120 days in prison. The proposed legislation dealing with domestic violence stems from a study conducted in October that ranked Tennessee the 5th in the nation in murders of women by men.
- Gang-Related crimes: The plan includes increased penalties for felons involved in gang-related crime, and reducing the rate at which a criminal commits a new crime. Specifically, legislation would target groups of three or more people who commit violent crimes. These groups would receive a harsher penalty for gang-related crime. Further, specific crimes frequently associated with gang activity will receive an increased penalty. These include: aggravated assaults and robberies and aggravated burglaries.
- Pill abuse: The proposed measures involving drug-related crimes include a system for cleaning noxious meth labs, improving the state database that tracks the sale of pseudoephedrine, better training state troopers on drug interdiction, and shift non-violent drug offenders from prison to local drug court programs.
Haslam's plan has its fair share of critics. Some of those against the legislation include defense attorneys who are wary of mandatory minimum sentencing. This is because specific circumstances of a case cannot be taken into account when there is a mandatory minimum sentence in place for a certain crime. Funding is also a big issue. While moving non-violent drug offenders to drug court programs is a great suggestion, many wonder where the funding for that type of movement will originate. Many are worried that the increased penalties for domestic violence offenders will begin to overcrowd the prisons. Prison administrators state the prisons are already filled to capacity with some exceeding capacity.
Even given the criticism, there seems to be overall support for Haslam's plan, particularly for the provisions involving drug-related crimes.
Many of these proposed laws are likely to come up in the upcoming session of the Tennessee Legislature. If passed, they will take effect later this year.