United States Attorney William "Bill" Killian spoke to the Chattanooga Civitan Club on Friday, describing the problems faced by the U.S. justice system. He said currently, 700,000 people are released from state and federal prisons each year, but two thirds of those people are rearrested within three years.
He said the United States Attorney's Office is working to help former inmates phase back into society through reentry programs. However, he said it was not just about not getting arrested again. Former inmates face difficulty not only in employment, but in finding housing and continuing or completing education.
He talked about the Attorney General's new Smart on Crime Initiative. Federal prosecutors are looking to pursue alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders. In some instances, they are working to reduce sentences where there are unfair disparities. This can help overburdened prisons.
He also pointed out that to house a single inmate, it costs approximately $64,000 per year.
He said, "It's a complex problem that's not going to be solved by simple solutions."
Attorney Killian also described to the club the kinds of federal cases that are typically prosecuted in the Eastern District of Tennessee. He said it could be anything from drugs to financial fraud, and gave several examples.
Attorney Killian worked on the case of the U.S. vs. Delk and Correll, where two inspection workers at the Watts Barr Nuclear Plant pleaded guilty to falsifying documents, saying energy cables met required safety regulations when they did not.
Another case he prosecuted, U.S. vs. Roth, involved a University of Tennessee professor illegally selling technology to China. Yet another, U.S. vs. Huff, involved a man attempting to take over a county courthouse.
He said recently in Anderson County, federal courts were prosecuting members of a meth ring. He said Anderson County produced the most meth in the state and that Tennessee was the second state in the country in terms of meth production. However, after these arrests, he said local law enforcement told him meth production had dropped by 40 percent.
Overall, he said his office wants to protect the most vulnerable populations.