Marsy’s Law for Tennessee Calls on Sheriffs Notify Crime Victims When Inmates Released Due to COVID-19 Outbreak

NASHVILLE – As Tennessee’s 95 sheriffs grapple with the decision to release inmates to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in their local jails, Marsy’s Law for Tennessee is reminding them of their constitutional duty to notify crime victims of an inmate’s release.

Notification of inmates’ release is part of the Tennessee Constitution in the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights added in 1998. Currently, many victims find those rights to be unenforceable. That’s why Senator John Stevens and Representative Patsy Hazlewood, joined by several other Tennessee legislators, have proposed immediate passage of Marsy’s Law for Tennessee. The non-partisan bill would update the current language to spell out clear, enforceable rights and protections for victims in our state’s most powerful legal document.

Across the state and country, news reports indicate sheriffs are planning to or have released non-violent inmates to decrease the population in their jails as the contagious Coronavirus potentially threatens the health and safety of both inmates and jail personnel.

Marsy’s Law for Tennessee is asking Tennessee sheriffs to make every effort to notify impacted victims whenever an inmate is released.

“During these unprecedented times, we are grateful for our law enforcement leaders who work every day to keep us safe. We understand many sheriffs are forced to make difficult decisions. We just ask that victims also be considered,” said Bonnie Brezina of Marsy’s Law for Tennessee. “Victims are already dealing with added stress by being isolated from supportive family members and resources. They should not have to deal with the possibility of being contacted or encountered by an accused perpetrator they believed was safely locked up in jail.”

Marsy’s Law will take the rights already in the Tennessee Constitution and make them enforceable by giving victims the legal standing to assert their rights. If passed in two consecutive legislative sessions and signed by the governor, the constitutional amendment guaranteeing these protections would be placed on the November 2022 ballot for voters to approve.

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About Marsy’s Law

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas has made it his mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights. He formed Marsy’s Law for All in 2009, providing expertise and resources to victims’ rights organizations nationwide.


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