Gov. Lee wants to make Tennessee's criminal justice system 'a model for the rest of the country'

Posted at 3:11 PM, Feb 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-28 17:32:10-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Four days before his State of the State address, Gov. Bill Lee has released a statement regarding his plan to improve the Criminal Justice System in Tennessee.

The new Governor announced today that he plans to propose several initiatives that will help to "improve public safety" and that will "focus on helping individuals to ensure there is a pathway to a productive life beyond crime."

There are three initiatives that have been outlined by the Governor so far.

First, Lee is proposing the expansion of the Recovery Court System by providing $1.7 million in additional funding. This is a diversion program that is focused on comprehensive supervision, treatment services, and immediate sanctions and incentives for substance abuse offenders.

Gov. Lee also wants to eliminate the $180 state expungement fee that is used when records are cleared of certain criminal charges. Elimination of this fee will hopefully lead to those with criminal pasts being able to obtain employment and housing much more easily than they would be able to with certain charges on their record.

Lastly, Governor Lee is focused on expanding higher education programming in prisons in hopes that more incarcerated individuals would be able to obtain the equivalent of a high school education. This will also support a launch of a bachelor's degree program at Turney Center Industrial Complex.

“More than 30 percent of inmates in Tennessee do not have high school education equivalency,” said Lee. “By offering quality education programming, inmates have a 43 percent lower chance of re-entering prison than those who do not receive this education.”

The Governor is expected to speak on his Criminal Justice System improvements and more during his State of the State address in Nashville on March 4.

“Public safety extends beyond party lines and has the best interest of every Tennessean in mind,” said Lee. “I look forward to working with the legislature and community leaders across Tennessee to make our system a model for the rest of the country.”