R 351
2017 -- S 0997
Enacted 06/29/2017

S E N A T E   R E S O L U T I O N

Introduced By: Senators McCaffrey, Goodwin, and Lynch Prata
Date Introduced: June 29, 2017

     WHEREAS, Rhode Island state leaders from all three branches of government requested
technical assistance in analyzing and making policy recommendations on the state’s criminal
justice system. In preparing its analyses, the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center
reviewed an extensive amount of data from multiple state agencies and spoke with nearly 300
individuals, agencies, and organizations to help guide and inform an understanding of policies
and practices in Rhode Island; and
     WHEREAS, The study revealed that people sentenced to post-release probation serve
terms that are three times longer than the national average; that two out of three people on
probation in the state have already served more than three years, after which time recidivism
declines significantly; and as a result of the exceptionally large number of people on probation
and the lengthy terms they are serving, probation officers are overwhelmed and are unable to
provide meaningful supervision that reduces recidivism and improves public safety; and
     WHEREAS, The following descriptions and purposes are important principles for
criminal sentencing:
     Probation is a period of supervision that should be imposed for the period of time when
     the probationer’s risk of recidivism is the greatest, because probation is more capable of
     reducing recidivism than incarceration is; and the purpose of probation is to reduce the
     likelihood that the probationer will engage in criminal conduct, hold the probationer
     accountable, and ensure that the probationer complies with the court’s judgment;
     A suspended sentence is a sentence that the court imposes for a set period of time, the
     execution of which is suspended, to allow a defendant to perform a period of probation;
     and the purpose of a suspended sentence is to set an appropriate term of potential
     imprisonment that the defendant may be required to serve in the form of revocation or
     sanction for violations of probation;
     Because a suspended sentence results in a criminal conviction and all of its collateral
     consequences, whereas probation does not, a suspended sentence should only be used in a
     situation where a conviction is deemed necessary and appropriate; and
     Imprisonment is a punishment through deprivation of liberty, and that imprisonment
     should be imposed only when necessary as punishment, or for public safety, or as a
     sanction for a serious probation violation, and in any case for the shortest term necessary
     to achieve the particular purpose; and
     WHEREAS, The study revealed that in FY 2015, felony probation violators served an
average of 10.5 months for technical violations and 13 months for new charges, while
misdemeanor probation violators served approximately 2 months for either technical or new
offense violations, on average; and
     WHEREAS, Incentives and sanctions should be used to motivate compliance and
positive behavior by people under supervision according to research showing the behavior-
change potential of incentives for compliance, along with swift, certain, and proportionate
sanctions for violations; and
     WHEREAS, Sanctions should be considered with recognition that behavior change, in
particular for people with behavioral health challenges such as addiction or mental illness, is a
gradual process, punctuated by relapse, rather than with an expectation of total compliance at all
times; and
     WHEREAS, In response to these and other challenges, the CSG Justice Center, in
collaboration with the Rhode Island Justice Reinvestment Working Group, developed a proposal
to modernize sentencing and probation supervision policies; strengthen probation practices and
the quality of community-based programs to reduce recidivism; and assess and divert people at
the pretrial stage, when appropriate; and
     WHEREAS, Rhode Island's state leaders agreed that high rates of failure among
probationers in the state are costly and undermine public safety; and
     WHEREAS, Although the CSG Justice Center worked collaboratively with the Rhode
Island Justice Reinvestment Working Group, the group did not vote to endorse the policy
framework, and although the policy framework has been put forth to the General Assembly for
their consideration, the CSG Justice Center is aware that any resulting legislation may include
compromises, meaning some policy options may be altered or not adopted; now, therefore be it
     RESOLVED, That this Senate of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
hereby respectfully requests 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; and be it further
     RESOLVED, That the Secretary of State be and hereby is authorized and directed to
transmit duly certified copies of this resolution to the Honorable Gina Raimondo, Governor of the
State of Rhode Island, and the Honorable Paul A. Suttell, Chief Justice of the Rhode Island
Supreme Court.