GOP Candidates Open to Alternatives for Non-Violent Criminals

All three major candidates for the Republican nomination for governor favor tough prison sentences for violent criminals. But all three also told an audience of lawyers from around the state that they’re open to alternatives to lengthy sentences when it comes to non-violent offenders.

State Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey was quick to point out that last week, the legislature passed a measure stiffening punishment for armed robbers.

“We took some lesser violations – things like forgery, things like using a stolen credit card – and pushed those off the table as far as having jail time, to free up that time for the hardened criminals.”

Ramsey says that as governor, he’d look for similar options.

Meanwhile, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam says he’s open to rehabilitation if it keeps people from returning to lives of crime. And Congressman Zach Wamp says he’s a “huge believer” in alternative sentencing for minor drug convictions.

“And I am tremendously pragmatic and compassionate on this non-violent drug-offender alternative sentencing, but over here, on the repeat offender, we’ve got to keep them off the street.”

To that end, Wamp says as governor he’d find room for more inmates by having county jails share more vacant space.

EXTRA:

Hear the candidates’ full responses below:

In order, the answers come from Ramsey, Haslam and Wamp.

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ALSO:

In collaboration with other public radio stations around the state, WPLN has posed a series of questions to each major candidate on taxes, jobs and healthcare. You can hear their answers here.

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