Center to Recognize MLK Day by Supporting Civil Rights “Justice Reinvestment” Legislation at Family Prosperity Leadership Forum

The Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) Seeks to Lessen the

Harmful Impact of Over-Incarceration on Families 
Democrat Senate Leadership to be Recognized for their Work at Tuesday’s “Family Prosperity Leadership Forum” at Bryant University

Providence, RI — As the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity will recognize the struggle for civil rights by announcing its backing of a state Senate package of bills, designed to lessen the harmful impact of over-incarceration on Rhode Island families and communities, particularly those of color.

At its Family Prosperity Leadership Forum, to be held Tuesday, January 17, in conjunction with the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University, the Center will join with civil rights leaders to endorse six bills under the “Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI)” banner that passed the Senate in 2016 but were held back in the House.

“Whether it is criminal justice reform, taxation, or education, if we are to improve our state’s dismal 48th place ranking in overall family prosperity, we must make helping families the focus of our public policy and private advocacy,” said Mike Stenhouse, Chief Executive Officer of the  Center. “At our Tuesday forum, we will recognize the leadership of Senate President Paiva-Weed and Senate Judiciary Chairman McCaffrey on this issue and we fully endorse passage of these bills in 2017.”

The legislation would modernize the state’s over-burdened probation system, which disproportionately impacts black families. The JRI legislation could help break the cycle of incarceration which makes it difficult for ex-offenders to live a productive life for themselves and their families.

Civil society leaders in the business, religious, community, and nonprofit sectors are encouraged to attend the leadership forum. Pre-registration is required at

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.

LEADERSHIP FORUM: National Experts & Local Leaders to Discuss State’s 48th Ranking in Family Prosperity Report

Media Advisory: January 11, 2017

Rhode Island Center For Freedom & Prosperity and ACU Foundation to Sponsor Rhode Island Family Prosperity Leadership Forum

BACKGROUND: Rhode Island ranked 48th in the nation on the 2016 Family Prosperity Index. Local and national experts will convene to discuss the factors that led to this ranking as well as ideas for political, religious, and civic leaders in the state to consider as they work to expand prosperity across the Ocean State.

Pre-registration and full participant bios and other details can be viewed here:

WHAT: Family Prosperity Leadership Forum: From Family Disintegration to Family Prosperity – Turning the Tide in the Ocean State

WHEN: January 17, 2017; Lunch 12:00 pm Forum: 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

WHERE: Bryant University, Bello Center Grand Hall
1150 Douglas Pike, Smithfield, RI 02917

HOST: Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership

SPONSORS: The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity;
American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF)

INVITEES: Community, Religious, Business & Political Leaders
(Pre-Registration Required)

WHO: National & Local Civic & Policy Experts

National Presenters:
Grant Collins: Sr. VP, FedCap; ex US Dep’t of Health & Human Services
Nick Eberstadt, Ph.D.: Political economist at American Enterprise Institute
Angela Flood: Communications and policy advisor, ACUF
Thomas Hoenig, Ph.D.: Vice Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC)
J. Scott Moody: Economist; Director Family Prosperity Initiative
David Safavian: Deputy Director for ACUF Criminal Justice Reform
Daniel Schneider: Executive Director ACUF
Wendy Warcholik, Ph.D.: Economist; Director Family Prosperity Initiative

Local Participants:
Ray Rickman: President, Rickman Group, former State Representative
Gary Sasse: Director, Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership; Founder, RIPEC
Mike Stenhouse: CEO, RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity

WHY: The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, along with its national partner, The American Conservative Union Foundation, today announced that they will conduct a public forum to analyze factors contributing to the Ocean State’s dismal 48th national rank on the Family Prosperity Index (FPI) as highlighted in their December release of the Rhode Island Family Prosperity report. The report highlights Rhode Island’s poor scores across a broad spectrum of measures of well-being, including family self-sufficiency, family structure, fertility, and illicit drug use, compounded by its significant out-migration rate.

fpi_ri-logoThe Family Prosperity Index was created by the ACUF as new tool that does what no resource has done before – demonstrate quantitatively the undeniable link between economic and social policy in determining family prosperity. In so doing, the Index provides a road map for finding real solutions to the cultural and financial problems that keep families – and the nation – from flourishing.

A more holistic measure than the one-dimensional unemployment rate or GDP, which only considers economic data, the FPI makes it possible to measure U.S. progress every year and rate states against each other according to how well they are providing an environment for families to flourish.

Rhode Island is just the second state in the nation to roll-out a detailed state-specific FPI report.

10 Multi-partisan Policy Principles to Improve on RI’s 48th Ranking in Family Prosperity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 6, 2016
Multi-partisan Policy Recommendations to Improve Family Prosperity and Upward Mobility

Offers public policy ideas for 2016 State candidates to consider

Providence, RI — With statewide elections in just two months, voters must consider whether a turnover in elected officials is necessary to to see a turnover in public policies that may actually improve their families’ prosperity.

Ranking just 48th on the national Family Prosperity Index (FPI) published earlier this year, the broadest available measure of family well-being, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (Center) today published a summary of the state’s rankings in dozens of FPI categories along with a set of policy principles that lawmakers are encouraged to consider.

“What if we were to realize that the status quo public policy approach, as well-intended as it may be, in reality, has had the unintended consequence of reducing the overall prosperity of our Rhode Island families,” suggested Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO.”The FPI research clearly demonstrates that cultural, social, and demographic factors must also be considered, in addition to economic factors, when formulating effective public policy.”

The Center maintains that a new public policy approach – an approach that considers the whole person, not just his/her material needs – and that takes the best ideas from across the political spectrum – is required to improve the lives of Ocean State families and individual taxpayers.

The two page policy brief provides a color coded summary of the Ocean State’s rankings. As part of its 48th place ranking among all states, Rhode Island: ranked in the bottom-third in 5 of the 6 major categories, and 18 of the 30 sub-categories; ranked in the middle-third in 1 of 6 major categories and 8 sub-categories; and in the top-third in zero major categories and just 4 sub-categories. The state’s worst rankings are in the major category of Family Demographics, where it ranks red in all 5 sub-categories.

To directly address these problems the Center has developed 10 guiding policy principles that candidates should debate this fall and that lawmakers should consider in the 2017 session. “The solution for our families is not about corporate welfare to targeted ‘advanced industries,’ but rather broad-based policies that enhance opportunity for every family and business,” continued Stenhouse.

In this regard, the Center’s ten policy principles include ideas from the playbooks of both the right and the left. “A new spirit of across-the-aisle and civic cooperation is required if our state government is to effectively serve its constituents. Additionally, community, religious and business leaders also have a very important role to play as public policy cannot address many of the problems Rhode Island must overcome if our families are to improve their chances of upward mobility,” concluded Stenhouse.

New: JOBS & OPPORTUNITY INDEX – RI’s Score Drops; Still Mired in 48th Place

November 21, 2016

Rhode Island loses ground, based on lag in long-term employment security

Providence, RI — Despite October data that showed an end to a two month job-loss skid and a slight improvement in its unemployment rate, Rhode Island actually lost ground and is still mired in 48th place by a broader measurement of overall employment opportunity. This according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity which noted today that relative long-term unemployment security concerns dropped the state’s total score, keeping the Ocean State stuck with the 48th rank nationally in the Center’s October Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI).

The state’s weak JOI score (which dropped in October to 17.5 on a scale of 0-100 from its September score of 17.9) parallel findings from another national study, the Family Prosperity Index (FPI), where it ranks 43rd overall in “economics” and 44th and last in New England in the sub-category of “entrepreneurship”, which can be largely attributed to an overly-burdensome governmental regulatory regime.

Rhode Island’s poor JOI and FPI rankings are personified by Robert Martinez, a US Navy veteran, who fought a losing battle against oppressive local government regulations and a statewide hostile business climate that has derailed his dream of forging a better quality of life for himself by developing a successful mobile food vendor business.

“The notion that a falling unemployment rate is indicative of improved job prospects and financial security is false,” commented Justin Katz, research director for the Center. “Meaningful long-term work and high-paying jobs that are vital to individual dignity and family self-sufficiency are not in high supply in Rhode Island as compared with other states.”

A more detailed analysis of the October data can be found on The Ocean State Current, the Center’s journalism and blog website.

Of the three factors that make up JOI, the Ocean State ranks:
  • 39th on the Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism that adequate work is available): a drop of 3 spots from last month.
  • 39th on the Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): no change from last month
  • 47th Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): no change from last month

The Center’s monthly JOI report is based on state and local tax collection data from a a variety of federal agencies including the U.S. Census and on income data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

Rhode Island has not gained ground on the national JOI metric, remaining – as it has for years – in the bottom five among all states. JOI is a broader and more accurate measure of employment and well-being than the traditionally cited and highly narrow unemployment rate, which has fluctuated more dramatically in recent years for Rhode Island, but which is not an accurate barometer of economic growth or family prosperity.

Supporting the findings of the JOI metric, Rhode Island also ranks 48th in the Family Prosperity Index, the broadest national measure of family well-being.

For the JOI homepage, click here

For a description of JOI and its three sub-factors, click here.