In the state of Tennessee, the solution to crime from our elected officials seems to always be the same. Let’s pass legislation to lock more people up, for longer periods of time, eliminate parole for numerous offenses, reduce programming in the prisons, and keep everyone on lockdown most of the time since there is inadequate staff to manage the correctional facilities.
Instead of reviewing the research on the factors contributing to crime, and seeking evidence-based programs for rehabilitation, we just continue to pursue politically expedient legislation designed to convince the public that something is being done to solve the problem.
The other solution offered for crime is to relax the already loose gun laws in the state. We have already passed constitutional carry and now we are trying to lower the age to carry a gun from 21 to 18. Legislators also want to change the language from “handgun” to “firearm” which would allow adults and even 18-20 year olds to walk up and down Broadway in Nashville and across the state carrying long guns including the AR-15 and the AK-47. This is in spite of the fact that studies show that the human brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25 and a high percentage of gun crimes occur among younger adults.
We know that trauma and poverty in childhood is correlated with a higher degree of educational challenges, disruption in the classroom, discipline issues, teenage drug use, and juvenile delinquency. Now, some Tennessee legislators want to give juveniles who commit certain crimes the same sentence as an adult.
Is there a better way? Absolutely! In fact, in the Scandinavian countries, decisions about crime and rehabilitation are determined by professionals, not politicians seeking reelection. The incarcerated are treated with dignity and offered programs and resources that are essential to being a good citizen upon their return to the community. Our work at TPOM, with both the incarcerated and the programs that we have in place after release, serve as strong evidence that there is a better way. Are our elected officials listening? Sadly, I think I know the answer to this.