Probation Reform


On June 12th, 2010, the Justice and Innocence Bill became Rhode Island Law. 

Previously, if a person on probation was accused of a new crime, they could be sent back to prison on a probation violation. Even if they were not found guilty of the new charge, they remained in prison for long periods of time for the violation.   This new law is a sensible reform that requires those accused of a new crime to be released from prison if they are found not guilty, or if the charges in the new case were dismissed.

OpenDoors has pushed for this change for 4 years, and is overjoyed that innocent people can no longer be unjustly imprisoned on what is often known as a 32(f).

Special thanks to everyone who fought hard for this reform, especially Rep. David Segal, Senator Rhoda Perry, the Office of the Public Defender, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, the Stronger Than Their Walls team, and hundreds of volunteers who donated their time and energy towards this effort.

History:

Only two states had probation systems as broken as that of Rhode Island. Although the US justice system emphasizes the importance of due process, a fair trial, and the presumption of innocence, previously, Rhode Island law did not provide these basic rights to people on probation. As a result, innocent people were imprisoned. When a person on probation was charged with a new crime, they could be sent to prison for violating probation. Even if they were not found guilty of the new charge, they remained in prison for long periods of time for the violation.

OpenDoors advocated for sensible reform to require those accused of a new crime to be released from prison if they were found not guilty or if the charges in the new case were dismissed.  In 2010, the legislature finally succeeded in passing this key probation reform.

Details:

Those who may qualify to be considered for release must petition the court.  The judge ultimately has to make a finding in each case.  If you think you might qualify, contact the attorney that represented you.

In order to petition the court, one of the following must apply:

-you have been found not guilty by a jury

-the grand jury has filed a no true bill

the judge has dismissed the case for lack of evidence

-the state AG has dismissed the case for lack of evidence

Learn More:

 


 

Probation Reform Fact Sheet

Released: July 2010, (pdf)

Status of Relevant Legislation: PASSED

This fact sheet can help you learn more about the probation reform and how it might affect you.

Freeing the Exonerated: Back-End Sentencing and Probation Reform

Released: June 2008, (pdf)

Status of Relevant Legislation: PASSED

When someone on probation is accused of a new crime, the allegations are often addressed in a violation hearing, where the burden of proof is significantly lower than in a standard criminal trial. With 1 in 30 adults on probation in the state, a large portion of the allegations of new criminal conduct in Rhode Island are disposed of through these proceedings. As a result, this back-end sentencing takes on a central role in the quality of Rhode Island justice. In fact, 1 in 15 sentences to prison in Rhode Island rely on back-end sentencing. This report also finds that back-end sentencing disproportionately denies people of color the right to due process.

Stronger Than Their Walls

Released: June 2009, (DVD, vimeo, youtube)

Status of Relevant Legislation: PASSED

This documentary follows the story of several men who were imprisoned even though the charges for which they were sent to prison were dropped or they were found innocent. The families of these imprisoned men take the issue to the Rhode Island Statehouse, where they tell their stories in an effort to reform the law.

 
Senate Bill 2225, the 2010 Legislation

Status: Senate Judiciary Committee has recommended passage

  Guilty, Even While Innocent, Rhode Island Monthly

In Rhode Island, those charged with committing a crime while on probation go straight back to the ACI, and stay there—even if acquitted of the later charges.

 

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