Our mission is to create a just and fair criminal justice system that offers every Tennessean the opportunity to become a productive member of society.
Driver’s License Revocation Reform
When criminal offenders serve their time and leave prison, they frequently owe outstanding fines and fees. For people who can’t afford to pay them, the criminal justice system turns into a maze with dead ends at every turn.
Tennessee law states that those who do not pay off their fines and fees within a year of leaving prison are subject to losing their driver’s licenses. In effect, this makes it difficult—and in some cases impossible—for that person to obtain or keep a good job and eventually pay off his or her debt to society. This additional barrier makes it harder for that person to become a productive, taxpaying citizen.
The Coalition for Sensible Justice supports repealing this law and replacing it with other, more effective means to collect fees and fines, so that those leaving prison have a better chance at finding and keeping gainful employment. This will increase the ability of those leaving prison to actually pay off their debts, and it will reduce the likelihood that they re-offend. As a result, this reform will reduce recidivism and enhance public safety.
Those leaving prison often have a ball and chain tied to them for the rest of their lives because of their criminal record. For non-violent offenders who have served their time and have gone years without reoffending, their past criminal record can keep them from climbing the economic ladder by limiting their employment opportunities. State law allows those who have served their time and gone five years without reoffending to have their record expunged, or wiped clean. The Coalition for Sensible Justice supports reforms that expand these opportunities for reformed offenders to have a second chance.
Specifically, juveniles who make mistakes at a young age should be given the opportunity to restore their ability to become productive members of society. First, juveniles should be informed of their right to have their records expunged when they qualify. Second, the age for which expungement is triggered should be lowered. Now, juveniles must wait until age 18 to seek expungement. This often prevents them from entering college or technical school or seeking good jobs due to their past record. Reducing the age to 17 would give reformed juvenile offenders a better opportunity to further their education or employment before it is too late.
Local Re-Entry and Rehabilitation Task Force
Tennessee’s local jails are overcrowded and costly to operate, and local officials are often forced to address mental health and substance abuse problems exclusively through the criminal justice system. The Coalition for Sensible Justice supports the formation of a state task force to analyze and offer recommendations on how to relieve the burden on local jails and improve outcomes through a comprehensive strategy to make diversion, mental health, substance abuse, workforce readiness and re-entry programs available across the state.
In addition to the agenda above, the Coalition for Sensible Justice also endorses the following bills
SB16-HB128: Separates petition for a certificate of employability from the broader process of restoration of rights of citizenship, making it easier to obtain a certificate of employability for those who do not qualify for a restoration of citizenship rights.
SB45-HB70: Creates behavioral health pilot project in Knox County.
SB130-HB160: Creates substance abuse pilot project in Montgomery County.
SB1245-HB418: Reduces the fee for one to expunge or clear his or her record when eligible from $350 to $180.