PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Governor Gina M. Raimondo, joined by
members of the General Assembly and community advocates, today signed the
package of legislation collectively known as the Justice Reinvestment
Initiative. The bills aim to improve Rhode Island's criminal justice system
while reducing costs by promoting rehabilitation and informed decision-making
in sentencing, probation and parole.
"Today represents the culmination of years of hard work
and dedication," Raimondo said. "The final product of the Justice
Reinvestment Working Group's efforts enjoys wide support from stakeholders at
every step of the criminal justice process, from judges to law enforcement to
victims advocates. For too many generations, Rhode Island neglected to update
our probation and parole processes, leaving us with the second-highest
probation rate in the nation and an unacceptably high recidivism rate. The
legislation I sign today will bring us back in line with respected,
evidence-based best practices that take the pressure off of our system and save
taxpayer dollars. By being smart on crime, we are making sure that every Rhode
Islander can benefit from a fairer, more effective system."
In May of 2015, Governor Raimondo joined with Chief Justice
Suttell, Speaker Mattiello, former Senate President Paiva-Weed and other
stakeholders in convening the Justice Reinvestment Working Group to provide
recommendations for improving Rhode Island's criminal justice system. The
United States has the highest percentage of incarcerated citizens in the world,
and Rhode Island has the second-highest probation rate in the United States. An
astonishing number of Rhode Islanders--nearly 24,000--are on probation. More
than half of Rhode Islanders on probation are unsupervised, increasing the
likelihood of recidivism.
Rhode Island cannot afford, and should not tolerate, a
system that places 1 in every 20 adult males and 1 in every 6 adult black males
on probation. Without Justice Reinvestment, the Department of Corrections
estimates that our state's prison population will grow by 11% over the next
decade, adding $28 million in additional operating and staffing costs.
"This was a collective effort to modernize Rhode
Island's broken criminal justice system," said Senator McCaffrey.
"Rhode Island's antiquated laws have overwhelmed our probation and parole
system, leading to high rates of recidivism and increased costs. This
comprehensive overhaul of those laws ensures Rhode Island's criminal justice
system prioritizes community safety, rehabilitation, and the targeted
investment of taxpayer dollars.
Justice Reinvestment embraces the sensible reallocation of
criminal justice resources from incarceration to treatment in order to improve
public safety, reduce costs and promote rehabilitation of past offenders and
successful reentry into society. The bills emphasize not only the hallmarks of
Rhode Island's legal system--equality, justice, and rehabilitation--but also
effectiveness and efficiency by:
• modernizing sentencing by giving courts critical information
about an individual's substance abuse and mental health needs; • making
probation supervision more effective by requiring the Department of Corrections
to conduct needs assessments; • creating a diversion program within the
Superior Court so that those who suffer from mental illness or substance abuse
can receive the treatment they need; and • expanding benefits for victims of
crime. "Justice reinvestment cuts spending and reinvests savings in
practices that have been shown to improve safety and hold offenders
accountable," said Representative Craven. "I'm proud of the General
Assembly for taking the steps to address much of what is wrong with our
criminal justice system."
"We hear a lot these days about our divisions and our
differences, about how government can never get anything done and, about how we
do not care enough about one another," said former Superior Court Judge
Judith Savage. "Justice reinvestment is a remarkable testament to the
ability of all three branches of government to come together and to listen to
and work with hundreds of stakeholders and members of the public in the name of
greater justice for all."
The Justice Reinvestment Initiative received wide-ranging,
bipartisan support from prominent Rhode Island organizations, including: the
Rhode Island State Police, the Providence Police, the Department of
Corrections, the Rhode Island state judiciary, the public defender, the
American Civil Liberties Union, the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, the
AFL-CIO, the American Conservative Union and the Rhode Island Center for
Freedom and Prosperity, among others.
The bills signed today are as follows:
S006/H5065 -Creates standards for batterer's intervention
program with the goal of improving program quality and reducing the likelihood
of reoffending. -Requires the Department of Corrections to modernize probation
supervision by adopting evidence-based practices.
S007H5063 -Expands the eligibility and
benefits for recipients of the Crime Victims Compensation Fund.
S008/H5117 -Creates more accountable,
evidence-based sentencing and violation response policies within the probation
system. -Provides the judiciary with
more information regarding probation sentences and violations, and grants
judges more discretion to act on this information.
S009/H5128 -Gives the parole board discretion
to credit time spent on parole toward the original sentence upon
revocation of parole. -Expands eligibility for medical parole by amending the
definition of a "life-limiting diagnosis" as one that "will lead
to profound functional, cognitive and/or physical decline within eighteen (18)
months," rather than six months under current law. -Requires the
Department of Corrections to monitor the implementation of justice reinvestment
S010/H5064 -Enables the
creation of a diversion program within the Superior Court so that those who
suffer from mental illness or substance abuse can receive the treatment they
need. -Establishes risk assessment and screening responsibilities and processes
within the pretrial services unit to better inform decision-making.
S011/H5115 -Refines the definition and
penalties for felony assault and provides a more detailed value ladder for
felony theft-type offenses.
S605/H5717 -Widens eligibility for the drug court
program in Superior Court.