Four very different groups have formed the Tennessee Coalition for Sensible Justice (TCSJ) to fix a criminal justice system “that is not working.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the Beacon Center of Tennessee, the Tennessee Association of Goodwills, and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce announced the formation of the group Tuesday and said it will advance criminal justice reform in the state.
TCSJ said Tennessee's incarceration rate is 11 percent higher than the national average and it costs state taxpayers $900 million annually. Still, the group said the state’s violent crime rate remains among the highest in the nation
“We are spending entirely too much taxpayer money on a system that is not working and is actually making Tennessee less safe,” said Justin Owen, president and CEO of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a Nashville-based think tank focused on limited government.
For Ralph Schulz, Nashville Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, criminal justice reform is about maintaining the city’s workforce.
“The number of workers retiring over the next decade is expected to be larger than the number entering the job market,” Schulz said. “For business, providing training and employment in a vibrant labor market will be key to maintaining prosperity and that’s why our members support this coalition.”
The coalition will initially pursue legislative initiatives focused on juvenile justice, sentencing reform, and recidivism reduction.
Before the legislative session, the group said it plans to hold a series of town hall meetings and reach out to other organizations with an interest in criminal justice reform across the state.