FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 30, 2017
Right and Left Agree That pro-Family Considerations are the “Right” way to “Reinvest” in Criminal Justice
House Leaders Encouraged to Give Serious Consideration to JRI Package of Legislation
Providence, RI — With related House Judiciary Committee hearings scheduled for Tuesday, and in line with the pro-family objectives of its new Family Prosperity Initiative, the center-right Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity today published a policy brief that supports the State’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) that is being advance by many on the left.
In order to give certain ex-offenders a better chance to achieve a productive life for themselves and their families, the policy brief – Right on Crime – lays out multiple reform ideas that can modernize and strengthen the Ocean State’s criminal justice system so as the lessen the harmful consequences of over-incarceration on society.
Ranking a dismal 48th in overall family prosperity, Rhode Island’s probation and parole rate is fourth highest in the nation, which many believe leads to a high rate of recidivism.
Consistent with the conservative “Right on Crime” movement that is taking hold in red and blue states across the nation, the reforms recommended in the Center’s brief address many issues that have long concerned liberals and that have proven to be destructive to Rhode Island families, including:
- Poor & minorities disproportionately incarcerated
- Critical family members embroiled in the criminal justice system
- No default criminal-justice provision
- Children of incarcerated parents trapped in cycle of crime and poverty
- Over-burdened probation system
As discussed in the Right on Crime brief, an attempt to address many of these issues was included in a package of legislation known as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) during the 2016 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly and reintroduced this year. The bipartisan JRI package of bills, many of which are reviewed in the brief, unanimously passed the state’s Senate both in committee and on the floor in 2016. However, for unknown reasons, the legislative session ended without the bills’ making it to committee hearings in the House of Representatives, despite broad bipartisan support for the initiative as well as from parole officers, criminal defense attorneys (both public and private), civil rights advocates, and community leaders. The state’s Senate Judiciary Committee heard the 2017 version of these bills earlier this month.
As an example of this cross-philosophical public policy cooperation, at the January 17th Family Prosperity Leadership Forum, which attracted almost 100 civic and political leaders from across the state and nation, the Center, along with local and national civil rights and political leaders from the left and right, stood together to support the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which would would improve the state’s over-burdened probation and overall criminal justice system.
The proposed JRI legislation could help break the cycle of incarceration, which makes it difficult for ex-offenders to improve their quality of life. Senate Judiciary Chairman Michael McCaffrey spoke words of praise (click for video) for those on all sides of the philosophical spectrum who are supporting this vital initiative.
About the Family Prosperity Index: In December, along with its national partner, The American Conservative Union Foundation, the Center unveiled an in-depth analysis of factors contributing to the Ocean State’s unacceptable ranking on the Family Prosperity Index (FPI). The Rhode Island Family Prosperity report highlights Rhode Island’s poor scores on a number of factors, including family self-sufficiency, family structure, fertility, and illicit drug use, compounded by its significant out-migration rate, as the determinant factors in the state’s overall FPI rank of 48th in the nation.
The FPI provides the credible data that state policymakers, civic and religious leaders, think tanks and activists need in order to develop and advocate effectively for policies that improve the prosperity of families and the communities where they live.