A coalition that includes the Rhode Island State Council of Churches will once again try to convince legislators to approve a series of justice reforms aimed at reducing the prison population.
“Our criminal justice system is broken-it doesn’t treat people who have mental illnesses, nor does it protect the safety of law enforcement who have to intervene when somebody is facing a mental health crisis,” said Sen. Franken (D-M).
Nationwide, 16 state prison systems have no formal procedure to enroll prisoners in Medicaid as they reenter the community, according to a survey by The Marshall Project. Nine states have only small programs in select facilities or for limited groups of prisoners, like those with disabilities. These 25 states collectively release some 375,000 inmates each year.
There are now nearly 24,000 Rhode Islanders on probation. Rhode Island has a relatively low rate of incarceration, but the second highest rate of individuals on probation in the nation. About 9,000 are actively supervised and the remaining are banked — meaning they remain in the system, unmanaged. The state’s antiquated practice of keeping individuals on probation for an average of six years — three times the national average — is pushing up the prison population as it is projected to add about $28 million to the Department of Corrections budget. In fiscal 2016, 25 percent of all sentenced admissions to the Adult Corrections Institutions were probation violators.
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Fred Upton’s 21st Century Cures Act, which has been rightly hailed as a game-changer for medical innovation and patient empowerment. What is less well known, but equally pioneering, is the bill’s approach to mental health reform.
In a randomized control trial looking at 200 recently released prisoners in San Francisco, it was found that bringing that population to see doctors significantly reduced emergency room visits and hospitalizations. That lessens the strain on emergency departments, and the cost burden that emergency treatment puts on the health care system.
The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to pass the Fair Chance Initiative, an ordinance that prohibits most employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional job offer has been made.
The Washington, D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary unanimously voted to advance a bill that would prohibit landlords from asking about prior convictions before extending a housing offer.
Sen. Thom Tillis said Wednesday that he may not seek re-election in 2020 unless a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s prison sentencing system is passed.
The White House recently announced a series of Administration actions to enhance the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system including the final Office of Personnel Management “Ban the Box” Rule, Federal Bureau of Prison reforms, and the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Report.