Despite being the smallest state in the country and having a crime rate among the lowest (the state’s violent crime rate is ranked the 40th lowest in the country, while its property crime rate is the 35th lowest), an independent prison population projection estimated that Rhode Island’s prison population would increase 21 percent between 2007 and 2017. This increase would come at a cost to taxpayers of an additional $300 million in construction and operating expenses.
To alleviate pressure on the corrections system, state policymakers from all three branches commissioned analyses of the prison population to understand why it was projected to grow and to develop policy options to reduce corrections spending and increase public safety. Policymakers collaborated to review these data analyses and to develop policy options for further consideration. With a commitment to bipartisan leadership and a justice reinvestment strategy, state policymakers enacted a legislative package during the 2008 legislative session that standardized the calculation of earned time credits, established risk reduction program credits, and required the use of risk assessments to inform parole release decisions.