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ICYMI: Keep the momentum on criminal justice reform

Jun 20, 2019 by AFP

Americans for Prosperity Tennessee State Director Tori Venable | The Tennessean

This year, Tennessee took a major step toward improving our state’s criminal justice system.

The changes, supported by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and backed by Gov. Bill Lee, will help make our communities stronger and safer, while also extending a second chance to those with a criminal record who are ready to become productive members of society.

Among the most significant changes, lawmakers did away with the misguided practice of suspending the driver’s license of an individual who is unable to quickly pay off their traffic citations, fines and court fees. Now they will be able to work out a payment plan based on their financial situation and receive a restricted license in order to continue driving to work to pay off their debt.

But as important as these reforms are, considerable work remains to make Tennessee’s criminal justice system even more just and effective. And we can do all these things without compromising our commitment to public safety.

We can start by improving our pre-trial system.

A more effective pre-trial system would incarcerate only those who pose a severe flight risk and are a threat to others. Other alternatives to incarceration could include regularly required check-ins and GPS monitoring and tracking devices.

In addition to improving Tennessee’s pre-trial system, lawmakers should also prioritize reforming our state’s civil forfeiture laws, which encourage law enforcement agencies to seize private property from individuals who have not been convicted of a crime.

As evidenced by the reforms enacted earlier this year, it’s possible to bridge the partisan divide and improve our state’s criminal justice system. Our group was proud to be a part of an ideologically diverse coalition that joined forces to encourage sensible and common-sense reforms.

When lawmakers next gather in Nashville, they should build on this year’s success.

Click here to read the full op-ed.

Tori Venable is Tennessee state director at Americans for Prosperity.