COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A controversial new bill in the Tennessee legislature would keep prisoners behind bars for their entire sentence.
Derek Holloway learned the trade of carpentry while in prison for arson. Now, he's turned his life around. At One Son’s Carpentry & Woodworking, he hires people who've been in trouble to help them get back on their feet.
"It’s either we keep them in there for longer periods of time, put a double burden on taxpayers, or if we give them an incentive, and we make them productive members of society, give them a sense of hope," Holloway said.
It would increase the state budget by nearly $28 million to keep them locked up.
Participating in prison programs can help them get an early release.
"They give you 15 to 25 years well the victims think, 'Hey that’s pretty good, they’re going to be there for a while,' but in Tennessee, they get out in under six years," House Speaker Cameron Sexton said.
But the new bill would change that.
"Florida put in a 'truth in sentencing,' and they saw a huge reduction in crimes," Sexton said. "But sometimes, you have to ask the question: what’s the life worth? And that home invasion in Memphis where that student, where one student died, he got killed because the person only served less than 18 months with 14 years of criminal history."
The family — of Rhodes College student, Drew Rainer, who was murdered — testified in favor of the bill on Feb. 23.
Derek's wife, Lindsay Holloway, is upset about the bill.
"It will make me cry talking about it," Holloway said, "Undo every bill we’ve worked on for the last five years.”
She served time for dealing stolen guns before she got help behind bars. Now, she advocates for criminal justice reform. She also operates a re-entry program for women called This is Living Ministries.
"And now I’m getting to see girls that I know that are getting degrees while they’re incarcerated, and when they come out, they have a step ahead," Holloway said.
Lindsay fears if the incentive of early release is taken away, prisoners will have no motivation to improve themselves.
"That’s one of the greatest things — we’re the second chance country, and I think we deserve that," Holloway said.
You can watch the discussion among lawmakers in this video. You can learn more information here.
If passed, it would apply to people convicted of a crime after July 2022. Below are the charges it applies to:
- Aggravated assault
- Vehicular homicide
- Aggravated vehicular homicide
- Possessing a firearm or antique firearm during commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony
- Attempted first-degree murder, where the victim suffers serious bodily injury
- Aggravated kidnapping
- Especially aggravated kidnapping
- Aggravated robbery
- Especially aggravated robbery
- Aggravated burglary
- Especially aggravated burglary
- Aggravated arson
- Manufacture, delivery, or sale of a controlled substance, where the instant offense is classified as a Class A, B, or C felony and the person has two or more prior convictions for the manufacture, delivery, or sale of a controlled substance classified as a Class A, B, or C felony prior to or at the time of committing the instant offense.