March 17, 2014

Whitehouse Hears from Rhode Islanders on Prison Reform Bill

Senator is Pushing to Make Communities Safer and Reduce Prison Spending

Providence, RI – At a roundtable discussion in Providence on Monday, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) heard from Rhode Island law enforcement and community leaders about his bipartisan prison reform legislation that recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and awaits action in the full Senate.  The bill would reduce federal prison spending and decrease overcrowded prison populations by allowing some prisoners to earn credits toward time in pre-release custody in return for completing re-entry programs that have been proven to reduce recidivism.   

The reforms would build on similar programs that have already proven successful in Rhode Island and other states.  Today’s roundtable featured input from Rhode Island corrections officials, law enforcement, public defenders, faith leaders, and members of the community.

“Rhode Island has shown that states can cut prison costs while making the public safer,” said Whitehouse, a former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General for Rhode Island.  “Today I was glad to hear from Rhode Islanders about the sensible steps we can take to improve our prison system.  I look forward to sharing what I heard today with my colleagues in Washington as we work to pass this important legislation.”

Whitehouse’s bill, S. 1675, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 15-2 on March 6th.  The legislation addresses the problems of rising prison populations and increasing corrections spending by building on reforms at the state level, including reforms put in place in Rhode Island.  The Rhode Island legislature enacted changes to its criminal justice system in 2008 that were followed by a 9 percent decline in the state’s prison population — as well as a 7 percent decline in the state’s crime rate. 

The event was held at OpenDoors, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping the formerly incarcerated reintegrate into the community by preparing them for life after prison and supporting them after release.  Participants in the roundtable included: 

  • Sol Rodriguez, Executive Director, OpenDoors
  • A.T. Wall, Director, Rhode Island Department of Corrections
  • Colonel Hugh T. Clements, Jr., Chief, Providence Police Department
  • Commander Tom Oates, Deputy Chief, Providence Police Department
  • Steven Paré, Commissioner of Public Safety, City of Providence
  • Mary McElroy, Rhode Island Public Defender
  • Olin Thompson, Federal Public Defender
  • David Logan, Dean, Roger Williams University School of Law
  • Dr. Jorge C. Armesto, Rhode Island Parole Board Member and practicing psychologist
  • Rev. Dr. Jeffrey A. Williams, Pastor, King’s Cathedral, Providence
  • Michelle Wilcox, COO, Crossroads Rhode Island
  • Amanda Bradley, local resident and OpenDoors program participant
  • Earl Williams, local resident and OpenDoors program participant

More information on S. 1675 can be found here.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921