A task force formed by Governor Bill Haslam meets Thursday in Nashville to continue studying the state’s sentencing structure and examine ways to reduce Tennessee’s high recidivism rate, or the number of people returning to prison within three years of being released. The goal of the task force is to develop recommendations for the Governor and his cabinet in an effort to improve state corrections laws.
The current sentencing structure in Tennessee has been in place for more than 20 years, with the recidivism rate averaging approximately 45 percent. After the meeting, the task force is expected to release its findings to Governor Bill Haslam by June. At that point, the Governor will make his own recommendations to various state departments and offer changes to state law to the legislature for approval.
Last week, the Council of State Governments (CSG) released a Texas study which showed that juveniles under community-based supervision are far less likely to reoffend than those incarcerated in state correctional facilities.
The study is expected to have significant implications on the operations of state juvenile justice systems across the country, including Tennessee, which experienced the fourth-largest decrease (more than 70 percent) in its incarcerated youth population in its state correctional facilities between 1997 and 2011. Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services Juvenile Justice Division is already working with the CSG Justice Center to pilot recommendations to improve its data collection.
Earlier this year, Tennessee joined Utah, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Kansas to test recommendations set forth by two CSG studies which detail what state and local governments can do to improve outcomes for youth in their juvenile justice system. The grant will help the states improve their methods for collecting and analyzing recidivism data and will serve as a model juvenile justice system for other states to emulate.