Bill would keep armed robbers in prison longer

Bill would keep armed robbers in prison longer

June 8th, 2010 by Todd South in Politics State

After a dozen years and a little compromise Tennessee police chiefs and district attorneys got what they wanted -- more time behind bars for armed robbers.

The bill, awaiting Gov. Phil Bredesen's signature, more than doubles the minimum time those convicted of aggravated robbery must serve before being eligible for parole.

Hamilton County District Attorney Bill Cox said state law enforcement officials pushed for the change over more than a decade.

"This is the unfortunate type of crime that not only poses one of the greatest dangers to the public but the type that sometimes becomes more prevalent in times of economic stress," he said.

Under current sentencing rules, an armed robber can be paroled after serving 30 percent of a sentence. The new bill will put that lower limit at 70 percent.

The average armed robbery sentence in Tennessee is a little more than nine years.

That means someone convicted of the crime could be paroled in less than three years. Under the new law the same sentence would mean more than six years before parole eligibility.

Over the years the bill has stalled due to its $10 million price tag for keeping inmates in prison longer.

But this year the bill's supporters tried a different tactic.

Through allowing alternative sentencing such as probation and community correction on nonviolent offenses the bill aims to offset the price of keeping the violent offenders in prison.

The nonviolent offenses includes -- shoplifting, felony theft of services, forgery under $1,000, criminal simulation, passing forged checks and burning personal property.

The executive director of the Tennessee District Public Defender Conference noted that the change could result in more trials.

"(Defendants) would need to know what is there potential for staying in jail," said Jeffrey Henry, conference director. "That may cause some defendants, as this progresses forward, to say 'well I may try my case.'"

Numbers from a 2008 report by the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Court show this phenomenon, Mr. Henry said.

According to the report "the more serious the offense class, the less likely a guilty plea was entered."

Crimes are classified from A through E, A being the most serious.

Ninety-five to 98 percent of all convictions from 2000 to 2007 for classes B through E came from a guilty plea.

Class A crimes had a 77 percent guilty plea rate.

Continue reading by following this link to a related story:

Article: House boosts prison time for armed robbery


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