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9/19/2017 General Assembly passes package of bills to overhaul probation, parole system
STATE HOUSE — The Rhode Island General Assembly today passed several bills introduced by Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) and Representatives Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown), Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence) and Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence) that would overhaul Rhode Island’s pension and parole system.

The legislative package was the culmination of months of work by the Justice Reinvestment Working Group, a diverse collective of community stakeholders that received input from members of the judiciary, law enforcement, the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Public Defender, victims, and numerous advocacy groups. The group was tasked with improving the state’s criminal justice system through a “justice reinvestment” approach that would relieve pressures from the correctional system while increasing public safety.

“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. 

Rhode Island first employed the justice reinvestment approach in 2008. Since that time, the incarcerated population declined 17 percent by 2014.

“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.”

The legislation approved by the legislature comprises the following bills:
  • 2017-S 0006A, 2017-H 5065A— This act, sponsored by Senator McCaffrey and Representative Craven, would create a batterer's intervention program fund. The act would also adopt evidence-based probation and parole supervision systems.
  • 2017-S 0007B, 2017-H 5063A— This act, sponsored by Senator McCaffrey and Representative Craven, would expand the type of direct expenses that crime victims can be reimbursed for pursuant to the criminal injuries compensation act. It would also increase the maximum emergency compensation award for burial costs and relocation and related costs. The three-year statute of limitations for claims would be removed and eligible victims would have five additional days to report a crime which resulted in their injuries.
  • 2017-S 0008B, 2017-H 5117A— This act, sponsored by Senator McCaffrey and Representative Blazejewski, would make several changes to the sentencing and execution guidelines for purposes of criminal procedure and would add new conditions of criminal probation.
  • 2017-S 0009A, 2017-H 5128A— This act, sponsored by Senator McCaffrey and Representative Almeida, would amend the provisions of the general laws pertaining to parole, medical parole, community confinement, and would replace prison impact statements with correctional impact statements.
  • 2017-S 0010B, 2017-H 5064A— This act, sponsored by Senator McCaffrey and Representative Craven, would allow the presiding justice of the Superior Court, with the approval of the Supreme Court, to create a Superior Court diversion program. The program would allow the court to administer rules whereby defendants would participate in substance abuse screening, community service, counseling and any other reasonable conditions.
  • 2017-S 0011B, 2017-H 5115A— This act, sponsored by Senator McCaffrey and Representative Ajello, would clarify what constitutes a felony, misdemeanor, and petty misdemeanor in the definition section of the general laws, and would also amend the penalties for certain criminal offenses involving assault and larceny, based on the value of property stolen.
  • 2017-S 0005 — This resolution, sponsored by Senator McCaffrey, would request that all branches of state government continue to collaborate on policy actions and investments to implement the findings and recommendations of the Rhode Island Justice Reinvestment Project facilitated by the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903