Last night, I attended a panel discussion on criminal justice issues in Nashville, TN. The panel was hosted by the Davidson County Democratic Party. Judge Steve Dozier, District Attorney Glenn Funk, Sheriff Daron Hall, and Davidson County Juvenile Court Magistrate Carlton Lewis were a few of the panelists. Here is a few of the most pressing issues that were discussed.
- Gun Violence and Youth
Everyday the news reports some episode of youths involved in gun violence. Is there a solution to the problem ? The Tennessee Legislature must accept some of the responsibility in the rise of gun violence. Every year the laws are modified to allow firearms in more places. There is no quick fix to stem the tide of gun violence according to the panelists. It is easier to obtain firearms. A general consensus is that all those under 30 have some type of firearm. Even those under 18 have firearms.
One proposal advocated by General Funk is to speed up the prosecution of felons possessing weapons. In the past, a firearm prosecution might be deferred to determine whether the Feds would take over the prosecution. Here is my proposal. Stop the source. Maybe we should crackdown on the sellers. Do an underage stings to see if a gun dealer will sell to a minor.
- Bail Bond Reform
Bail bond reform should be addressed. Why ? Our current bail bond system is just another form of punishment imposed on those less fortunate. One problem preventing bail bond reform is the private bail bond system is firmly entrenched with supporters in the state legislature.
What’s the solution ?
Sheriff Hall spoke on expanding the scope of pretrial release. Pretrial release is a program run by the Davidson County to release citizens on their own recognizance. A fee of $35.00 is paid and they have to call in once a week. I would urge the pretrial release program to take all misdemeanor cases and Class e felony cases where the citizen lives in Middle Tennessee. General Funk discussed a proposal where bonds would be reviewed in certain cases where a person might be released without making bond.. My big complaint is the excessive amount of the bail bond and the source hearing for nondrug offenses.
- The Opioid Crisis.
The General Sessions Courts and the Criminal Courts in Davidson County have embraced drug treatment. Judge Norman is a pioneer in the creation of drug courts. The opioid epidemic is more problematic. While I was waiting for my hearing at the Tennessee Board of Nursing, one doctor testified it took at least 12 months to rewire the brain from opioid addiction. There is a glaring need for a dedicated half way house for those struggling with opioid addiction. One measure that needs to be reviewed is how courts deal with probation violations on a failed drug screen. There needs to be more alternatives rather than jail.
Nashville is facing problems in our criminal justice system. I am proud of our leaders for appearing at a public forum for a frank discussion of these very important issues.