Top legal expert calls truth in sentencing law 'a disaster'

Jail Cell
Posted at 8:09 PM, May 09, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A top expert on the Tennessee criminal code says the new truth in sentencing law passed by the legislature will fail miserably and there is history to prove it.

"We are on the road to fiscal disaster and correctional disaster," said attorney David Raybin.

He calls it a short-sighted law — one which requires inmates to serve 85% to 100% percent of their sentences for many crimes.

Raybin said it will cost taxpayers millions at worst there will be violent uprisings in jails and prisons.

This is history repeating itself.

Raybin was part of a state legal team in 1979 which crafted a law to quote "Get tough on crime" — eliminating early release for many inmates.

This is what happened.

"We had riots all over the state. Four prisons in riot status at one time."

Five years after passing the law, one riot hit the Turney Center in Only, Tennessee.

An inmate uprising, taking hostages and a destructive rampage — tensions finally exploded.

Without early release for some inmates, Raybin said there will be a problem.

"You will have an expansion like a balloon in prisons, you'll have overcrowding times ten," said Raybin.

The inmates back in 1985 said as much after the 14-hour-standoff at Turney that left several injured ...

"This is a major problem is the overcrowding," said an inmate.

Raybin said the truth in sentencing law passed last week will create the same problem, but worse considering prisons are already overcrowded and short-staffed.

"This is an election year. They say they are hard on crime and a lot of people support in a simplistic way."

But, Raybin said early release encourages inmates to better themselves.

If the state plans to lock many up for 85 to 100% of the sentences then millions will have to be spent on new prisons.

"For the life of me I can't understand why this is going to be — it's not going to last or deter people."

Raybin said the law's impact won't be felt for a couple of years, but as the prison ranks swell and the state is faced with rising costs and lawsuits, it will have no choice, but to reverse course.

Raybin understands people wonder why an inmate only serves three years when sentenced to ten?

But the decision for early release is based on good behavior and the judgment of the parole board that the inmate is not a threat to society.