They violated the terms of their parole and many became fugitives, but when the Tennessee Board of Parole sent them back to prison, they gave the convicted criminals credit for time served on the outside 97% of the time, according to newly released state data.
"I was floored," Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus said about his reaction when he learned the specific numbers. "That tells you way too many people are getting credit that they don't deserve."
Records show of the 3,503 cases where the board revoked parole in 2016 and 2017, just 111 of them lost credit for time served.
"...the Board voted to take back at least some of the credit for time served under community supervision, or 'street time,' for 111 offenders – regardless of whether delinquency was declared by (Tennessee Department of Correction)," Board of Parole Communications Director Melissa McDonald said. "This determination to take street time is made on a case-by-case basis and is driven by the facts of each situation."
Records show 35 of those parolees committed new crimes while under community supervision (10 of them felonies) and several others have felonies pending.
"There's just no real excuse for it," Staubus said. "It's not holding the defendants accountable, it's not maintaining public safety and it's not being truthful about sentencing."
Sen. Jon Lundberg (R), TN-District 4, met with parole board representatives last week. The vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said that meeting left him with even more questions.
"It's not becoming clearer. It's becoming murkier," he said.
Since we last interviewed Sen. Lundberg, the Tennessee Department of Correction confirmed a possible policy change that would stop the clock for parolees who've had an active warrant for more than 30 days.
"I think it's a good thing that they're saying, 'Hey, maybe we should revisit this policy,'" Sen. Lundberg said. "I think that attitude, that policy should be the other way. The default should be if you violate parole, the clock stops."
The state senator previously questioned the chairman of the parole board about the situation and recent sent a request for more information.
Staubus said he too is hopeful TDOC moves forward with its policy revision.
"I think it's way past due," Staubus said. "I think that's the right decision. I'm just sorry that it's taken this long and gone on this long. It shouldn't have."
As we reported last week, state records show more than 400 parolees from across the state, including people from Northeast Tennessee, have active warrants out for their arrests. TDOC said more than half of those people will be arrested in the first 30 days.
State data shows of the 3,500 parolees who appeared for revocation hearings in 2016 and 2017, the parole board sent 99% of those people back to jail or prison.
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