Criminal Justice Reform in Rhode Island

Rhode Island has historically had a strong criminal justice system with relatively low incarceration rates and recidivism rates. However, they definitely saw increases in these numbers around 2008. The recidivism rate in 2004 before any reforms were passed was at 54%, and following the first reform dropped by about 5% in just five years. However, Rhode Island hit its prison population peak in 2008.

To address its peaking prison population, Rhode Island has worked to reform its criminal justice system:

  • In 2015, Governor Raimondo (D) signed an executive order that established the Justice Reinvestment Working Group. This group’s purpose is to advise the governor on improvements to be made in the state’s criminal justice system.
  • Governor Raimondo (D) has proposed several criminal justice reforms in her 2020 budget, including: improved discharge planning, better access to health care, expanded parole to include the geriatric population, and incentivized work release programs.

Rhode Island has seen some impressive results since initiating criminal justice reform:

  • Within a year of the 2015 Executive Order, Rhode Island’s prison population fell by almost 100 people. The Justice Reinvestment Working Group has clearly advised the governor in many positive ways that have resulted in a reduction of prison population.
  • As of 2020, Rhode Island has one of the lowest incarceration rates in the nation, with its prisons under crowded at 93% capacity.

Congress has some great initiatives on the horizon that could reduce costs and the prison population, improve work release programs, and ultimately enhance public safety. Hopefully it will be productive in the coming years and pass more criminal justice reform legislation.

Identification of legislation should not be considered an endorsement of support of, or opposition to, such bills.