Photo: District 9 Chattanooga Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee
Photo Credit: Demetrus Coonrod / Instagram
Published May 26, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
On Monday, May 24, District 9 Chattanooga Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod spoke out to show her support for the new criminal justice reform bills signed by Governor Bill Lee.
Coonrod played a part in helping the bills become law. Lee signed them in Nashville on Monday, and the councilwoman took the time to speak out. She also discussed her personal connections to the bills, having spent time in prison herself.
“Once I transitioned from prison, those barriers were still in place. and what governor lee has done is remove those barriers that prevent people from being employed,” she said.
The first bill Lee signed, the Re-entry Success Act, will allow businesses to hire individuals with criminal records without an increase in liability. Coonrod was hopeful this would be able to help businesses in Chattanooga.
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She said, “I’m going to base them and judge them based on the person I see before me. and the skillsets that they have to offer. They are already used to working, most of them are coming off of probation or parole, so that’s something they have to do is show accountability with their employer. They’re not going to be late, they’re going to be the best employee that you have.”
The second bill, the Alternatives to Incarceration Act, will let those convicted of low-level or non-violent crimes serve their sentence in a community-based prison alternative.
“It’s honestly about whether we as a nation live up to our founding ideal of liberty and justice for all and working together we can make that happen,” Coonrod said.
The bill also puts a cap on possible probation time and would keep a judge from “revoking probation based on one instance of technical violation.”
Lee hopes that both bills will work to reduce crime in Tennessee while keeping people out of prison.
“There are people in prison who are violent offenders that are a threat to society that need to be there,” he said. “That’s why you can talk about being tough on crime and smart on crime. There are also low-level non-violent offenders that are incarcerated. Often times the evidence shows they’re incarcerated for way too long and there is real evidence that alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders, those that are not a real threat to our society but have committed a crime if we use alternative sentences like drug courts and mental health courts, we have much better outcomes for those folks.”
The director of Tennessee’s Office of Criminal Justice Programs, Jennifer Brinkman, said, “Gov. Lee and the General Assembly made criminal justice reform a priority, recognizing that inmates often need programming while incarcerated in order to be successful in navigating their lives post-release. We know that there can be many barriers, including financial, to a local jail being able to start or scale such programming. This grant, in addition to the enhanced reimbursement, is designed to address that challenge.”
The OCJP is currently accepting applications from local jails for Re-Entry Success Act grants. Both of the bills will go into effect July first.