"It's critical that we prioritize breaking down barriers to reentry and supporting justice involved youth as we reform our criminal justice system," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "Our goal is rehabilitation, not punishment, and we still have work to do to ensure a more fair, equitable system. I'm grateful to the members of the Working Group for their hard work in developing these recommendations."
Governor Raimondo signed an executive order creating the Juvenile & Criminal Justice Working Group in August 2019. The Working Group, comprised of 46 experts, advocates and government leaders, was divided into two subcommittees to narrow the focus on juvenile justice and criminal justice, respectively. Chief Judge Michael B. Forte chaired the juvenile justice subcommittee and Justice Maureen Keough chaired the adult criminal justice subcommittee, while Michael Grey, chair of the Governor's Workforce Board, served as co-chair of both.
In her first term, Governor Raimondo signed an executive order creating the Justice Reinvestment Working Group to identify ways the state could improve sentencing, probation and parole. In 2017, the Governor and General Assembly codified recommendations from the group that reduced costs by promoting rehabilitation and informed decision-making in sentencing, probation and parole.
Despite progress the state has made improving the front end of the system, Rhode Islanders leaving incarceration face structural barriers to successful re-entry, particularly around employment. In addition, previous work has not examined ways the state can better support and rehabilitate justice involved youth. To come up with recommendations, the Working Group solicited input broadly, including from formerly or currently incarcerated individuals and youth that are justice involved. The recommendations represent a broad consensus of the Working Group.
The Working Group's recommendations include:
-Making behavioral health services more available to youth at risk of juvenile justice involvement;
-Improving employment outcomes for our youth at the Training School, including career readiness for today's job market and the youth's individual skill set;
-Reforming policies that create barriers for youth to re-enroll in school post release from the Training School;
-Making discharge planning more robust and effective;
-Providing healthcare services including for those individuals with behavioral health challenges and substance use disorders;
-Exploring ways to create pathways to employment behind the walls that can successfully carry over to real jobs on the outside, such as through an apprenticeship; and
-Ensuring that the education offered on the inside reflects career pathways on the outside.
A copy of the full report can be found below.
"We are grateful for the Governor's interest in Justice Reinvestment and her initiative in having the Family Court reexamine our continuing commitment and performance in the area of rehabilitation," said Chief Judge Michael Forte. "The Court was charged in its original enabling legislation in the early 1960s to strive to repair families and to rehabilitate youth whenever possible. For almost 60 years we have been practicing Justice Reinvestment and the Committee's numerous hearings have shown our dedication to our mandate, and the success of our mission. We continue to reexamine and adjust our resources to keep pace with our ever-changing society and the needs of our State's children and families. The Court will take the recommendations of the Committee to heart and strive to address the needs of our community through best practices and a continuing commitment to addressing any inequities in the judicial process."
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to have served as co-chair of the Governor's Juvenile & Criminal Justice Working Group," said Justice Maureen Keough. "It was a privilege working alongside the various stakeholders who participated, each with their own unique perspective on the challenges facing individuals involved in the criminal justice system as well as ideas on how to facilitate their re-entry into the community. I am hopeful that our findings will result in systemic changes that will enhance the prospects of successful reintegration for all individuals."
"Ensuring that formerly incarcerated Rhode Islanders have opportunities for employment is critical to reducing recidivism," said Mike Grey, Chair of the Governor's Workforce Board. "The recommendations we're bringing forth today are the result of months of discussion and deliberation from this diverse group of stakeholders. I'm proud of what this group has accomplished and am grateful to Governor Raimondo for bringing us together and prioritizing this work."