You Win Some…TADP’s Legislative Wrap-up

The legislative session in Tennessee has ended, and because of your support, more victims of violent crime in Tennessee will have access to the help that they need to heal.

The legislature overwhelmingly passed HB 1021/ SB 1416 sponsored by Chairman Clay Doggett (R) and Senator Paul Rose (R), expanding access to the Tennessee Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund for more victims of violence in Tennessee. This legislation will allow more Tennesseans who have experienced harm to access the support that they need to recover and to heal in the wake of a violent crime. This fund of last resort can assist with lost wages, funeral expenses, and counseling services.

Background and Impact

Over the last two years with the leadership of TADP Community Outreach Coordinator Rafiah Muhammad-McCormick, TADP has worked closely with victim advocates, including Mothers Over Murder, Tennessee Voices for Victims, You Have the Power, and Raphah Institute to address some of the challenges that keep survivors and surviving family members of murder victims from receiving assistance to aid in their recovery from violent crime. TADP is deeply grateful to all of these groups for their hard work and support.

When victims get the help they need, they are more likely to cooperate with law enforcement and less likely to be trapped in cycles of violence. This support is critical if we want to make Tennessee safer for everyone and end our reliance on a failed death penalty.

TADP is currently planning a statewide campaign with Mothers Over Murder to educate victims of violence about this fund, how to access it, and to learn what other obstacles need to be addressed to allow even more people to benefit. This campaign will empower the voices of those directly impacted by violence to educate the public and lawmakers alike that more punishment is not what victims need but instead they need more support to heal and more community-based investments to prevent violence in the first place, which is the real alternative to the death penalty.  

Other Legislation

Legislation to remove secrecy from the lethal injection protocol, sponsored by Senator Mark Pody (R) and Chairman Justin Lafferty (R) did not move this session, though Americans for Prosperity and the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government championed the bill, along with TADP and Tennesseans for Capital Punishment Reform (TCPR). We will continue to push for transparency around lethal injection, particularly in light of a new report that demonstrates a “disproportionate number of botched executions involve Black individuals, underscoring the deep-seated biases that pervade the system and that state secrecy and cover-ups further compound the issue, with authorities concealing vital information about the execution process and the drugs used. Secrecy laws prevent transparency and allowing states to perpetuate the myth of humane executions while hiding the harsh realities from public scrutiny.”

Despite our best efforts to contain it, a bill to expand the death penalty for the non-lethal crime of child rape passed the legislature and is on its way to Governor Lee. TADP will now mount a campaign to ask Governor Lee to veto this misguided legislation.

Though we can all agree that this is a reprehensible crime, this legislation will only serve to make Tennessee’s kids less safe. The real motivation behind this bill is an attempt to overturn U.S. Supreme Court precedent that determined the death penalty should only be available as a punishment for murder.

If protecting kids was the priority, Tennessee lawmakers would have listened to the child service providers who continue to publicly share their concerns that this legislation will only chill the reporting of this crime since 90% of offenders are family or friends of the child. It will also trap children in decades of capital litigation that will only serve to re-traumatize them, particularly if they have to testify over and over again. At the same time, the state will spend millions of taxpayer dollars to litigate a test case with no certainty of a specific outcome. Tennessee lawmakers should instead be directing these resources to try to protect our children from the abuse in the first place and ensure survivors have access to mental health treatment and the proper support.

With your support, TADP will keep up this fight, working to end the death penalty, to prevent violence, and to support all those who are harmed–which will make us ALL safer.

Photo: TADP and TCPR staff at 2024 Justice Day on the Hill.

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