Rhode Island Launches New Justice Reinvestment Effort

By Allen Houston, CSG Justice Center

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Governor Gina Raimondo signs an executive order to create a working group to study Rhode Island’s criminal justice system.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order on Tuesday, July 7, to launch a comprehensive study of the state’s criminal justice system using a “justice reinvestment” approach, which will identify new ways to relieve pressures on the correctional system and increase public safety.

“We’ve made some important criminal justice reforms over the last decade, but urgent work remains,” said Raimondo.

The study will be overseen by Rhode Island’s Justice Reinvestment Working Group, which consists of members from all three branches of the state’s government. The working group will guide the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center as it analyzes state and local criminal justice system data and works extensively with stakeholders to connect the data analyses with their front-line experiences.

Among the areas the working group will examine is Rhode Island’s high probation rate. The state had the third-highest probation rate in the country in 2013 (nearly 1 out of every 44 adult residents), yet only a small portion (about 8 percent) of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections budget goes to probation and parole services. Further, almost half of Rhode Island’s sentenced admissions to the Adult Correctional Institute in 2014 were people who have been revoked from probation or parole supervision.

The Justice Reinvestment Working Group, co-chaired by Chief Justice Paul Suttell and Judge Judith Savage, will meet several times this year, review findings presented by the CSG Justice Center, and develop policy options for the Rhode Island General Assembly’s consideration in 2016.

“This is a significant opportunity for Rhode Island to conduct a data-driven analysis of its sentencing and corrections practices,” said Suttell. “We expect to focus on evidence-based programs that will work to decrease the number of repeat offenders and increase effective supervision, all the while saving taxpayer dollars and reinvesting in public safety.”

Over the past several years, the CSG Justice Center has helped 22 states across the country—including Connecticut, New Hampshire, Alabama, and Nebraska—apply the justice reinvestment approach. The initiative is made possible by a partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Learn more about Rhode Island’s justice reinvestment project.

To watch Gov. Raimondo’s press conference announcing justice reinvestment in Rhode Island, click on the video below.