Hulsey's sentencing bill runs into $112M headwind

Hank Hayes • Feb 5, 2018 at 8:30 PM

Tennessee state Rep. Bud Hulsey’s legislation to prohibit an inmate convicted of a felony from using sentencing credits until the inmate serves the minimum percentage of the jail term has run into a serious headwind.

It’s the cost associated with the bill.

The legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee says Hulsey’s legislation would increase state incarceration expenditures by $112.2 million.

Hulsey filed the bill following the August 2017 denial of parole for James Hamm, who was convicted in the 2014 drunken hit-and-run that killed Kingsport businessman Mike Locke.

At the time of the incident, Locke was posting signs along Fort Henry Drive for Hulsey’s 2nd House District political campaign.

In May 2016, Hamm received a 14-year prison sentence with no parole eligibility until 30 percent of his sentence had been served, but he also had been given credits for his incarceration in the Sullivan County Jail.

Hulsey, vice chair of the State Government Committee, expressed frustration over the fiscal note.

“For families and victims of violent crime, it’s offensive as it can be when you get a notice of a parole hearing and it’s a year, two years before the minimums of the statute have ever been served and judges have no way of telling people how much time somebody is going to get,” Hulsey, R-Kingsport, said during a committee meeting.

The Fiscal Review Committee reported there has been an average of more than 15,100 inmates released each year over the past five years. Of these releases, about 5,800 inmates, or 38 percent, received sentence credits such as those given for good behavior or taking part in prison programs.

According to the Tennessee Department of Correction, about 32 percent of offenders will re-offend within one year of their release. The average operating cost per offender per day is $71. The department says the average inmate earns 383 days of sentence credits.

For more go to www.capitol.tn.gov. The bill’s number is HB 1514.

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