Tenn. Black Caucus holds criminal justice reform forums across state

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators will hold forums in the state’s two largest cities to discuss criminal justice reform—one in Memphis and one at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville on Jefferson Street. The forum will be held Sunday, June 12, from 3-6 pm.

This past year, the Black Caucus passed seven pieces of legislation aimed at reforming the state’s criminal justice laws. The new bills ranged from making it easier to have a criminal record expunged in cases of mistaken identity to the ‘Ban the Box’ bill that prevents the state of Tennessee from asking a job applicant about their criminal history early in the interview process.

Tennessee Black Caucus Chair Rep. Brenda Gilmore says this is just the beginning of the process.

“We made some real progress this year, but there is much more work to be done,” Gilmore said. “That’s why forums like these where we can hear from the public about the real issues they face are so important.

“The information gathered in these forums will help shape next year’s reform package and will give us a road map for helping not just Tennessee’s African-American population, but the entire state.”

“We have too many Tennesseans wasting away in jail for non-violent, minor crimes that involve either drugs of simply an inability to pay fines,” Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris said. “By and large, these crimes disproportionately affect Black Tennesseans. It is an injustice when lives are irreversibly ruined by crimes of substance abuse and crimes of poverty.”

“Last year, with information gathered in our public forums we put together a package that was comprehensive, as well as bi-partisan,” said Rep. Raumesh Akbari, vice chair of the Black Caucus.

“With the information we can gather this year at our forums; our legislative offering can be even more powerful.”