Dec 3, 2021 - Politics

Tennessee Gov. Lee grants clemency to 17

Headshot of Gov. Bill Lee in a blue suit.
Gov. Bill Lee. Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP

Gov. Bill Lee announced Thursday he would grant clemency to 17 people, including exonerating a man wrongfully convicted in a 2006 killing.

  • Lee also said his administration would establish a process to fast-track consideration for people sentenced under a harsh drug-free school zone law the legislature scaled back in 2020.

Why it matters: Criminal justice reforms were central to Lee's campaign for governor. His decision to make clemency announcements before the end of his term is a break from the previous administration.

By the numbers: Lee granted the exoneration, 13 pardons for those who had already served their sentences, and three commutations that reduced sentences.

Meanwhile: Tennessee's previous school zone drug law was criticized as discriminatory because it could be used to arbitrarily increase sentences for drug offenses within 1,000 feet of a school even if a child was not endangered.

  • The General Assembly changed the law last year, reducing the radius to 500 feet and only allowing for enhanced sentences if children were exposed to drugs.

Yes, but: Lee's office said 335 people were still incarcerated under the old version of the law.

  • The governor said his office would expedite reviews for the eligible inmates to determine if their sentences should be reconsidered.
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