SB 2248/HB 2656, the so-called “truth-in-sentencing” bill, would force certain offenders to serve 100 percent of their sentence without the possibility of reduction for good behavior or program participation. This will needlessly increase sentences for thousands of Tennesseans and cost taxpayers tens of millions more dollars each year. This legislation will not increase public safety and may make it harder for formerly incarcerated people to reintegrate after they have served out their sentences.
In Tennessee, incarcerated people can earn “sentencing credits” for good behavior or participation in programs. The sentence lengths in current Tennessee sentencing laws were written with the expectation that most incarcerated people will not serve the entirety of their sentence. This practice incentivizes incarcerated people to take advantage of prison programs that can aid in the reentry process. Yet SB 2248/HB 2656 would prohibit sentencing credits for thousands of incarcerated Tennesseans.
According to a study by the Sycamore Institute, Tennessee’s state felony incarceration rate grew 68 percent from 1991 – 2018. This legislation would increase our prison population further, which is reflected in the bill’s projected cost to taxpayers with at least an additional $27 million annually within 10 years. Tennessee’s Department of Corrections has suggested this figure may be a major underestimate.
Research has shown that locking people up for more time does not make communities safer. Incarceration has a marginal and diminishing effect on decreasing community crime and can impose social and economic costs that can even cause crime to increase.
TAKE ACTION: Locking people up for more time does not make communities safer – it just worsens our mass incarceration crisis. Tell lawmakers to vote no on SB 2248/HB 2656.