NAACP, others seek input on prison sentencing reform
Tom Wilemon, email@example.com 8:25 p.m. CDT July 30, 2015
Representatives of human rights organizations and public defenders have sent a joint letter asking the Governor's Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism to do a reset before finalizing its recommendations.
The letter states the makeup of the committee is "weighted toward the law enforcement community" and its meetings have had a "dearth of public input."
"Our concern is that the governor's selections for the task force have created a bias toward law enforcement and, thus, typical law enforcement solutions with respect to our criminal justice system: Longer sentences, more prosecutions and more prisons - a position which is untenable and has led to a national crisis of mass incarceration that must end, as has been recognized by both political parties, the president, supreme court justices and even the Koch brothers," the letter states.
The signers include David Phillipy and Chris Slobogin of the Tennessee Consultation on Criminal Justice, Jeannie Alexander of No Exceptions Prison Collective, Alex Friedmann of Human Rights Defense Center, Sheryl Allen of the Tennessee NAACP, Walter Searcy of NOAH Criminal Justice Task Force, Davidson County Public Defender Dawn Deaner and Knox County Public Defender Mark Stephens.
The Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also sent a letter to the task force this week expressing similar concerns.
The task force, which has been at work for a year, has not kept any official records of its decision-making process. Nor were the meetings webcast and archived. However, the task force is considering enhanced penalties for multiple convictions of drug trafficking and other crimes, according to a report from a consulting firm assisting the task force that was obtained by The Tennessean. The task force may come out with recommendations as soon as next week.