Probation Reform Becomes the Law in Rhode Island

After five years of struggling, civil rights advocates won a huge victory when probation violation reform legislation became law on Saturday, June 12th.

The legislation – S-2225 – was sponsored by Senators Perry, Levesque C, Miller, Metts and Sosnowski.  The House version – H-7347 – was championed by Rep. David Segal.

In simple terms, the bill bans the state from keeping people in prison on probation violations for crimes that are never proven.

Makes sense, right?

Well, along with Alabama and South Dakota, Rhode Island had one of the worst probation violation laws in America.  Thus, a person serving probation who was charged with another crime was considered guilty of violating the terms of his or her probation, regardless of the outcome of any adjudication of that crime.

As a result, a person on probation could have been sent back to prison for the full length of his or her suspended sentence even if no conviction ever resulted from the second charge. Often, people accused of probation violations would plead to a lesser offense, even if they were innocent of the accusation that caused the violation, because being innocent of the crime that resulted in the probation violation was not a defense that would prevent them from going back to jail on the violation itself.

Thus, the bill now requires the dismissal of any probation violation or violation of a suspended sentence that is based on a new criminal charge for which the defendant is not convicted within a reasonable period of time, or is acquitted or dismissed.

Watch this video to see how this unjust law effected so many lives in Rhode Island.

This legislation had passed the General Assembly for each of the last two years but been vetoed by the governor each time.  The bill had also been annually opposed by Attorney General Patrick Lynch (but was supported by former Attorney General Jim O’Neil).

This legislation is a great step forward for Rhode Island.

Rhode Island had the most heavy-handed probation laws in the country.   Sentences are longer than average and it’s far easier than in most places to end up back in prison for a new offense.  Violation hearings are held before the trial, so defendants have little time to line up a real defense, and charges are adjudicated at the lowest standard of proof in our legal system. And then, even if you’re later found not guilty of the act that underpinned your violation, you were forced to rot in your cell with no recourse.

Now, thanks to Senator Perry, Representative Segal and a host of community advocates such as Open Doors and DARE, the system has approved and justice has prevailed.

This is what democracy looks like.

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5 responses to “Probation Reform Becomes the Law in Rhode Island

  1. Hey, I just wanna say to ALL those involved, thanx, thank you so, so much…….

  2. My heart goes out to ALL convicts whom were wrongfully imprisoned due to this miscarriage of justice…..NOW, I just hope they (fellow inmates) don’t cloud the courts with petitions to see the judge, but, reserve room for others in their shoes (like Meko Lincoln my ex-cellmate who has been in there for 8 f@#ing years on a probation violation for something he did not do but was framed by a crooked drug-dealing cop)…….AND I thought Rhode Island was just THAT kind of place where only demons dwelled !!! That was the reason why I left that state, otherwise, I would have been violated 1 year ago when I left!………in R.I, they (cops/prosecutors) really stick it to you and without vaseline too, GRRRRRRRRRRRR !

  3. This is great news. God bless all involved for their help in changing the RI plantation. I know how it feels to be acquited and still sit at the A.C.I on violation. I was sentenced 10/10 in 2000 back on violation 04 for a poss marjuana got 5yr on violation but charges were dismissed after I was already violated. I tried to appeal the violation but vogel said can’t help you. It’s about time RI became American.

  4. I know what you mean. I left the State for the same reason. Last time I took it to the Hearing ,and thanks god the Cop could not account for all the drugs they said they found!! extras showed up!! They almost got me 10 years for not plaeding to the new charge!!!

    Is this law retro? there are a lot of people at the ACI unjustly locked up?

  5. So what would be adiquit time to charge someone with a new charge serving violation on a suspended sentence

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