Harsh sentences disqualify inmates from programs to help them when released

    Auditors say the nation's largest private prison provider has been operating some prisons in Tennessee short-staffed, hasn't send the state some reports and provided others with errors.

    After her release, Cyntoia Brown will stay with a Franklin family that offered to take her in, a rare opportunity for an offender getting out of prison.

    "If somebody gets out of prison and they don't have any support, they're just let out, they're not given any housing," said defense attorney Leah Wilson.

    That brings us to Calvin Bryant. "Fridge" as he's known was a force on the football field, starring at Hillsboro High School and then at TSU. The Burros rarely lost when Fridge stepped on the field.

    Calvin is 32 now, and he showed some of the mementos of his athletic accomplishments to FOX 17 News, but what is missing from his walls is any mention of the last ten years.

    "At the end of the day, I took accountability for what I did," Bryant said. "Yeah it was a harsh sentence, but I feel like I came out a stronger man than when I went in."

    In 2008, Calvin Bryant got a 17 year sentence for selling some party drugs in his apartment. First arrest, first crime -- gone for 17 years. Bryant got an unusually harsh sentence because his crime occurred within 500 feet of a school zone.

    "I've heard many judges voice their lack of having any ability to look at a case and use what we elect them to use: their judgement," Wilson said.

    The school zone law is no longer enforced in Davidson County because District Attorney Glenn Funk feels it is unfair and discriminates against certain populations.

    "All kinds of unintended consequences have come from it," Wilson said.

    As in Cyntoia Brown's unique case, the judge was constrained, forced to give a harsh sentence with no leeway.

    "You're not eligible for any programs or anything because you know exactly how much time you're going to get. So you can't earn any time off no matter how good you are," Bryant said of offenders who receive sentences that require 100 percent of time served.

    If not for his family and attorney, Daniel Horwitz, Calvin would have had little help when he was released from prison in October. Cyntoia's working with the state on a plan to make her second chance in society a successful one like Calvin's.

    Calvin is studying at TSU this spring, and he runs his own foundation that works with inner-city youth.

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