The Tennessee Senate has approved legislation that will bring significant improvements to Tennessee’s criminal justice system by focusing on treating addiction, and getting people leaving the system back to work, among other provisions.

These conservative reforms are a huge win for public safety, and taxpayers. Addiction and not having a job are two major factors that drive people to reoffend. As long as they remain untreated, addicts are more likely to reoffend. Having a decent job is a key factor in reducing recidivism, and poverty is also a leading recidivism factor.

People who have committed low-level offenses are going to be released from incarceration one day. It only makes sense to address their individual issues and set them on a better path when they return to society.  

A task force assembled at Governor Bill Lee’s request tackled these issues and offered recommendations, leading to the legislation that just passed (HB 784/SB 767, and HB 785/SB 768).

The legislation removes unnecessary government licensing barriers to work for former offenders, updates community supervision practices to concentrate on risk, and offers alternatives to jail where appropriate, like drug treatment. More serious offenders who currently would be released without supervision, will have one year of supervision added, further protecting public safety.

Governor Lee deserves immense credit for leading the charge on these bills, along with legislative leaders, Speaker Sexton, Senate Majority Leader Johnson, and sponsors, including Rep. Curcio, Rep. Lamberth, Sen. Stevens, Sen. Bowling, and Sen. Yager, among many others who helped these needed reforms become reality.