Weekly Update

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Yesterday, I was happy to host the honorary signing of the bipartisan Truth-in-Sentencing state law at city hall. This new law was sponsored by House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Governor Randy McNally and was supported in a bipartisan manner in Memphis and Shelby County. Democrats supporting the bill include: Sherriff Floyd Bonner, House Leader Representative Karen Camper, Rep Antonio Parkinson, and me. The bill was also supported by Republicans, including District Attorney General Amy Weirich, Senator Paul Rose, and Representatives John Gillespie, Kevin Vaughn and Tom Leatherwood.




For longer than many of us care to remember, violent crime has plagued our city. I’m tired of it, and I certainly know Memphians are too.


Fighting violent crime is a complex process with many pieces to the puzzle, and unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. A few of the most important pieces of the puzzle (and I talk about them often) are providing more opportunities for young people, and more and enhanced funding for re-entry services for those who have paid their debt to society.


Our administration has put a heavy focus on both of those. During my time in office, we have:

  • Doubled the number of youth summer jobs compared to when we took office
  • Allocated another nearly $3 million over three years in federal funds to grow our program by an additional 350 participants a year
  • More than doubled youth library programming and youth athletics participation at Parks
  • Significantly increased the number of youth using our community centers
  • Funded universal, needs-based Pre-K for the first time in City history
  • Allocated $9 million of federal funds to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis to replicate their successful four-year program at Craigmont High School to 10 additional schools
  • Funded a gun violence intervention program or GVIP
  • Expanded programs that work to connect local employers with individuals who have paid their debt to society and are leaving prison
  • Raised private funds to pay for the expungement fees for nearly 2,400 non-violent felons and have lobbied to have those fees reduced
  • Worked with companies like Kroger and divisions within city government to hire dozens of men and women who have successfully completed our second chance programs.

All the items listed above are critical, but equally as important, we must have serious consequences for those committing violent acts in our community.


Last year, in Shelby County Criminal Court there were 280 guilty verdicts involving only aggravated assault. (There were likely many other cases involving aggravated assault, but those defendants were also charged with other crimes).


Of those 280 cases, 25 percent of them were granted judicial diversion, meaning no prison time. Another 37 percent were sentenced from 1-3 years in prison. Remember, prior to passage of this new law, a prisoner only served 30 percent of their sentence. So, if you have a three-year sentence, you’re only serving about 11 months.


Some examples of crimes receiving these weak sentences:

  • Defendant shot his roommate
  • Defendant shot victim in the stomach
  • Defendant stabbed victim with scissors
  • Several drive-by shootings

Statistics show stiffer sentencing laws work.


Let’s take Virginia—in 1995 the state implemented Truth in Sentencing.


Since then:

  • Violent felons are spending significantly more time in prison;
  • There are fewer repeat violent offenders;
  • A greater share of prison beds are being used by violent offenders;
  • Many lower-risk felons are being punished through alternative methods in lieu of prison without compromising public safety;
  • Prison population growth has slowed; and
  • The overall crime rate has declined, including the violent crime rate.
  • Bottom line—it works. Recently, Virginia was ranked among the safest states with the lowest crime rates and the recidivism rate was the lowest in the nation.

I was told recently by one of our violence interrupters that criminals in our city are laughing at the system. They know that if they commit a crime and get arrested, they’ll be back on the streets in just a short amount of time.


As it stands right now, the average time served for those convicted of attempted first-degree murder involving serious bodily injury is 5.7 years—5.7 years.


That’s unacceptable to me. It’s unacceptable to the families who are forced to deal with the heartache these crimes cause, and it’s why this new law will be so important in the fight against violent crime.


Overton Park 9: Thanks to a group of very generous donors led by the late George Cates, King-Collins Golf Course Architecture & Design started an 18-month-long project to reconstruct and reimagine the Overton Park 9.


In addition to the newly renovated course, there is more in store. After nearly 100 years on these grounds, the historic Abe Goodman clubhouse is undergoing renovations. The new clubhouse will feature a golf shop, concessions, and a covered patio to elevate the golfing experience for every player. And next month, we will hold the 74th Annual Overton Park Junior Open. 


Before I close out this week’s Update, I’d like to take moment to give a special recognition to George Cates and his special connection to Overton Park and our city. When George  moved to Memphis with his wife, Bena, in 1961, it didn’t take long for him to see the potential in Memphis. While many of us see that potential, George was the kind of person who was determined to make his vision for Memphis a reality. We miss him and thank him for his great service to our city.


Tomorrow, June 25th, the course will be open for play to public. To schedule your tee time, go here.


Try to stay cool and enjoy your weekend!




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