A group said it will rally on Monday at noon in front of the Chattanooga City Courts Building, 600 Market St., to speak out in support of life sentence reform by the Tennessee legislature this session.
The bill at issue, HB1532, is sponsored by Rep. Dan Howell, and passed overwhelmingly in the Senate last spring with sponsorship from Senator Janice Bowling.
Supporters of the bill said, "If enacted, it will return Tennessee’s life sentence for first degree murder to what it was before 1995 – life with parole eligibility after 25 years in prison.
Since 1995, anyone sentenced to life in Tennessee must serve 51 years before they are eligible for release, making it in effect the same as a life without parole sentence."
Former Chattanooga District 9 City Councilman, former governor appointment to the Board of Probation & Parole, and current Legislative District 28 House Rep. Yusuf Hakeem is to be in attendance to show support of this bill.
Chattanooga’s current District 9 City Councilwoman and newly appointed member of the National League of Cities 2022 Public Safety and Crime Prevention Federal Advocacy Committee Demetrus Coonrod said, “We have to deal with the trauma people deal with, and we can’t ignore that historically there has been a lack of opportunity, chance and change. We have to address that.” They both support this bill and agree with other supporters – including people whose loved ones were murdered – who argue that a 51-year sentence is too harsh and does not provide a second chance for people who have served a substantial time in prison for their crime, and have clearly demonstrated that they have changed, and can live as positive contributing members of society."
Supporters said, "The legislature’s fiscal review committee estimates the bill will save taxpayers nearly $2.5 million each year, starting one year after its passage. Responding to concerns that the bill could create an undue burden on the parole board note that the bill’s immediate impact will be extremely limited, because there are very few people serving 51-year life sentences today who have reached 25 years in prison. The number of people serving these life sentences is small compared to how many parole hearings the Parole Board conducts each year. Due to reduced life expectancy for people in prison, about 30 percent of those currently serving this sentence aren’t likely even to live long enough to see the parole board.”