Tougher Sentences Sought To Curb Chronic Repeat Offenders - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Tougher Sentences Sought To Curb Chronic Repeat Offenders


NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Police call it a revolving door of repeat offenders and it's a process that has them frustrated and asking for change. 

Investigators complain criminals often only serve a fraction of their sentence and then get back out of prison and commit violent crimes again.

Metro police pointed to Kelvin Mason who pleaded guilty in January to robbing and shooting someone in East Nashville.

Detectives said he did not serve a day in jail and instead got probation.

Then earlier this month, Mason was arrested again for armed robbery. 

"How many robberies does someone have to commit? How many times during a robbery does he have to shoot somebody? You know, will he have to actually kill somebody before they take it seriously enough to put the individual away for the prison time?" said Lt. Danny Driskell.

A group of East Nashville residents are examining the problem of repeat offenders and plan to petition lawmakers before the legislative session begins.

They and Driskell are concerned that criminals serve only a fraction of a judge's sentence. For example, a 15-year sentence with one prior arrest, one could be out in 4.5 years. Or with a 40-year sentence and more than five arrests, one could be out in under 20 years.

"He was my poster child like a year ago, Driskell said.

Lavender Howse had arrests dating back to 2000. He served little time and in 2005, he was convicted of murder, armed robbery and theft. 

George Cody, the alleged killer of a Vanderbilt University professor and his sister in August, was convicted of armed robbery a few years ago. But he only served 30 percent of his sentence.

"They get a sweetheart of a deal or probation," Driskell said.

In January, Kelvin Mason pleaded guilty to robbing and shooting a man in East Nashville. Driskell said he did not get a day in jail, just probation.  Mason, who is on the city's most wanted list, was arrested again for an armed robbery earlier this month.

"That's a failure on the part of government," said Dan Gislao, an East Tennessee resident. "We all fail but we need to address it, fix it. We need to make sure it doesn't become routine."

Driskell keeps track of individuals such as Mason, Cody and Howse. He is concerned that one more release, one more on probation could mean another victim. 

"It's like lighting another fuse, waiting for innocent person to become another victim," Driskell said.

Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas and others have testified in front of state lawmakers, asking for tougher sentencing laws. 

Serpas wants to see armed robbers serve 100 percent of their sentence. In 2007, lawmakers passed the Crooks with Guns bill, which toughened sentencing laws for gun crimes.

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