TN Bill looks to stiffen penalties for repeat offenders

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TRI-CITIES (WJHL)- Right now the majority of inmates in Sullivan, Carter, and Greene County jails are repeat offenders.

In most cases in Tennessee offenders get out years before serving their full sentence, and many land right back behind bars.

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A bill making its way through the Tennessee General Assembly would stiffen penalties for repeat domestic violence offenders, drug offenders, and home burglars.

In 2015, 71 percent of the inmates at the Carter County jail were back within a year of their release.

A previous News Channel 11 investigation revealed in 2014 some people in our area had been arrested over 100 times, a cycle that for some has spanned decades.



“There’s people in jail here that were here when I was deputy here in 1984, now they’ve been out and in several times since,” Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said.

“When you see people coming in over and over again like the repeat offenders on drug cases, aggravated burglaries, that they’re in and out of jail you know in 18, 19 months it’s very frustrating because we, other law enforcement, my prosecutors, and staff, we work hard to protect society and protect our community and if they’re just going through a revolving door it’s not really helping anyone,” 1st District Attorney General Tony Clark said.

This bill would require repeat drug traffickers and home burglars to serve 85 percent of their sentence before they are eligible to get out. Right now these offenders typically serve only 30 percent of their sentence.

“Other than just not having enough people in my office, that’s the biggest complaint I would have against the system itself, it’s what we have, we have to use it but when the public sees that a person receives a 15 year sentence, they may only spend two and a half years in prison,” Clark said.

“Lock them up initially for longer periods of time, I think will cut down on recidivism because they’re not out committing more crimes,” Lunceford said.

This bill would also toughen penalties for domestic violence offenders.

“Right now under state law you can have ten convictions for domestic assault and in the current law, all ten are misdemeanors, this legislation would change that so third and subsequent domestic violence offenses become felonies,” Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Bill Gibbons said.

This bill is one part of the Public Safety Act of 2016,  Governor Bill Haslam’s 3-year plan to lower crime in Tennessee.

*Photo via WJHL