NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A new state law has the power to reduce prison terms for hundreds of Tennessee drug addicts.
In 2020, the state legislature passed a law that no longer required mandatory minimum sentences for people caught buying or selling drugs in a school zone, meaning there is no there was previously no possibility of parole or early release.
The law also shortened drug-free school zones from 1,000 to 500 feet around schools.
But that law was only made retroactive for people already behind bars for the offense in April 2022.
Last month, Governor Bill Lee signed a bill allowing the courts to reduce sentences for school zone drug offenders if the act took place more than 500 feet from the school zone, or if the lawyer can prove that the act did not endanger any child.
On Wednesday, a Nashville woman became the first person in Tennessee to receive a reduced sentence under the new law.
Jenica Gant previously pleaded guilty to selling drugs in her home in 2011. At the time, it was within 1,000 feet of a school zone. She was sentenced to 15 years.
But in a hearing on Wednesday, Nashville Judge Steve Dozier agreed that Gant posed no threat to any children because his drug dealing took place during the summer when the children weren’t at home. ‘school.
“I stayed here as an adult because of decisions I made on my own,” Gant said. “It affected everyone I was connected with. Even though I had no immediate victims, I still had victims.
Gant apologized to friends and family and thanked the court for the reduced sentence.
“For anyone who hasn’t decided to go the right way, they should decide to go the right way,” Gant said.
Sunny Eaton of the Nashville District Attorney’s Office is the Director of the Conviction Review Unit. She says Gant’s case was “symbolic” of the kind of “injustice” caused by drug-free school zone laws.
“None of Ms. Gant’s offenses occurred at a time or place where children were actually exposed. They were in the summer. They were at night. They were on his own property,” Eaton said. “I think you’ll find in any metropolitan area, especially in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, people who live near schools.”
Eaton says Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk is committed to addressing injustices in the community. His office has already identified 20 to 30 cases similar to Gant’s that they plan to petition.
“These laws were enforced and these arrests were made in a way that illustrated an injustice that frankly led to abuse and over-surveillance and contributed to mass incarceration,” Eaton said.
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Gant is expected to be released from prison as early as Wednesday evening.