(The Center Square) – Tennessee’s recidivism rate has been a policy priority for Gov. Bill Lee in recent years and the most recently available data showed the state’s rate of recidivism dropped to 29.6%, the lowest in a decade.
The data looked at individuals released from a state prison in 2019 and if they had a new arrest, conviction or returned to prison in the three years after release.
Lee pushed his Reentry Success Act and an alternative to imprisonment during the 2021 legislative session, with both bills passing.
The $20 million reentry bill required mandatory supervision for those released from prison until they reach their parole date while it was expected to save $74 million as less prisoners were housed.
The second bill prioritized community-based alternative programs for those found to have mental health and substance abuse issues related to certain crimes.
“The data is proof that what we are doing in Tennessee is working. We are seeing the results of the action taken by Gov. Bill Lee, the General Assembly, and TDOC employees who work to prepare offenders for success on the day they enter our custody,” said TDOC Commissioner Frank Strada. “Further, overall changes in the Department of Correction, such as the standardization of offender supervision in the community and the use of graduated sanctions, reaffirms that you can be both tough on crime and smart on crime and get better public safety outcomes.”
Lee also prioritized funding for nonprofit programs such as Men of Valor ($499,500), Next Door, Inc. ($400,000) and Lipscomb correctional higher education ($121,100) in his 2021 budget.
Strada said that private, nonprofit, and community organizations have helped make a difference in the lives of returning citizens by providing support services that help them avoid returning to prison.