JRI Year: 2021
In 2019, the Criminal Justice Investment Task Force was established through an Executive Order.1 With assistance provided by the Crime and Justice Institute, the Task Force examined data, current policies, and best practices in other states to identify policy and practices necessary to maximize resources and increase public safety.2 In the previous decade, the state’s recidivism and violent crime rates had remained exceptionally high.3
The Tennessee legislature created two pieces of legislation—Senate Bill 767/House Bill 784 and Senate Bill 768/House Bill 785—based on 23 policy recommendations developed by the Task Force.4 The bills were expected to strengthen responses to individuals with behavioral health needs through earlier identification of individuals with treatment needs and expanded community-based treatment opportunities.5 The bills sought to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of community supervision by implementing a system of graduated sanctions and restricting the period of incarceration resulting from a technical violation of community supervision.6 The bills addressed barriers to successful reentry by requiring the Department of Corrections to provide an individual with a defined “reentry packet” upon discharge, establishing funding for reentry centers, and creating pathways to educational and vocational qualifications.7 The bills were signed into law in May 2021, and multiple policy and practice changes were implemented.
To carry out the requirements and intent of the Reentry Success Act, Tennessee created the Office of Reentry—an innovative office embedded in the Department of Labor & Workforce Development—to coordinate reentry processes across the state and help people with justice involvement find employment.8
For more information, see Justice Reinvestment Initiative: Tennessee.
JRI-Driven Policies and Practices
- Improve/revise pretrial release systems
- Establish/revise presentence assessment
- Adopt actuarial decision making tool for pretrial release considerations
- Reduce collateral consequences associated with conviction
- Revise parole hearings/decision/eligibility standards
- Expand good-time/earned-time prison credits/reentry leave
- Establish/expand presumptive parole for qualifying cases
- Authorize performance incentive funding
- Cap revocation time
- Increase standard of proof when considering probation revocation
- Establish mandatory reentry supervision
- Require/improve risk-needs assessment
- Require evidence-based practices
- Reform/establish specialty courts or diversion programs
- Reduce probation terms or active supervision period
- Evaluate quality of prison/community-based programs
- Improve behavioral health interventions
- Improve restitution/victim notification
- Establish state-level grant program to fund community-based services
- Establish/expand Day Reporting Centers that focus on risk reduction
- Establish/improve network to link supervised population to behavioral health providers
Other JRI-Funded Projects
In Tennessee, the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) collaborated with the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) to support jail correctional staff wellness and ultimately address staffing challenges, including retention. To better understand correctional staff stressors, CJI conducted focus group interviews with correctional staff in several jails across the state, with a focus on rural communities. CJI also worked with TCI to develop a peer support program for jails and began training staff in Tennessee to be Peer Support Officers in the spring of 2022.
1 Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Investment Task Force, Tennessee: Criminal Justice Task Force, retrieved May 19, 2023 from https://www.tn.gov/governor/priorities/criminal-justice-investment-task-force.html.
3 Criminal Justice Investment Task Force, Criminal Justice Investment Task Force Report, Tennessee: Criminal Justice Investment Task Force, retrieved May 19, 2023 from https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/governorsoffice-documents/governorlee-documents/CJInvestmentTaskForceReport.pdf.
4 The Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2022, Justice Reinvestment Initiative Fact Sheet, New York, NY: The Council of State Governments Justice Center, retrieved May 22, 2023 from https://csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/JRI-Fact-Sheet_2022.pdf.
5 Criminal Justice Investment Task Force, Criminal Justice Investment Task Force Report, Tennessee: Criminal Justice Investment Task Force.
6 Ibid., 30.
7 Ibid., 33, 34, 35.
8 Lisa Margulies, 2023, Tennessee Office of Reentry: Creating Pathways to Successful Reentry through Employment, Boston, MA: Crime and Justice Institute, retrieved May 17, 2023 from https://www.cjinstitute.org/publication/tennessee-office-of-reentry-creating-pathways-to-successful-reentry-through-employment/.