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Hulsey's truth-in-sentencing bill heads toward stern test in committee

Hank Hayes • Apr 3, 2019 at 5:45 PM

NASHVILLE — Tennessee state Rep. Bud Hulsey’s legislation to limit the use of jail sentencing credits by people convicted of three types of violent felonies passed on a voice vote in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, but it is headed toward its toughest test.

Because the bill has a $7.1 million fiscal note in incarceration expenses, it will next be considered by the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, is scheduled to be on the final calendar of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill authorizes felony inmates to continue to earn sentence reduction credits, but it specifies that such credits will not reduce the inmates’ release eligibility dates.

Hulsey, R-Kingsport, had filed similar legislation last year, but he had to amend it. Even with the amendment, however, the legislation had a $30 million-plus fiscal impact.

Hulsey had filed the initial bill after James Hamm, convicted in the 2014 drunken hit-and-run that killed Kingsport businessman and Hulsey’s friend Mike Locke, was denied parole in 2017.

In May 2016, Hamm received a 14-year prison sentence, but his parole eligibility came up after he used sentencing credits for good behavior.

Standard offenders, under Tennessee law, are supposed to serve at least 30 percent of their sentence. Career offenders serve 60 percent. The Tennessee Department of Correction says about 31 percent of offenders will re-offend within one year of their release. The department also says the average number of days gained by inmates committing those three types of violent felonies is about 195 days each year over the last three years.

For more, go to www.capitol.tn.gov. The bill’s number is HB 0197.

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