NEW: ACLU Finds “Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline” Undermines Criminal Justice Reform

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

 

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ACLU Finds “Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline” Undermines Criminal Justice Reform

A new ACLU report has found that the Rhode Island General Assembly took several steps back from its 2017 criminal justice reform action by adding over a dozen new felonies to the books and increasing sentences for several other crimes.

Read the Report Here

“This expansion of the “Statehouse-to-prison pipeline” was the disappointing finding of an ACLU report issued today, updating an extensive analysis of RI lawmaking on criminal justice that the organization issued in January.  That earlier report examined the problems of mass incarceration and overcriminalization that result from the state’s routine passage of laws that create new crimes and add sentences to existing crimes – in the absence of any analysis to support the expansions. Between 2000 and 2017, that earlier report found, the General Assembly created more than 170 new crimes,” said the ACLU in their press release.

The Report

The new report found that legislative action in 2018 added to “the ongoing upward trend of creating new crimes, adding harsher sentences, and sending more and more people to prison while doing nothing to stem that tide.”

The updated report titled, “Justice De-Investment: The Regrettable Expansion of the Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline in 2018,” highlighted several especially problematic examples of this year’s lawmaking on crimes.

The report was critical of the enactment of two laws imposing mandatory minimum sentences on certain second offenders.

According to the ACLU, it had been many years since the General Assembly last enacted bills imposing such sentences.

The report also documented a continuation of other trends that had been cited in the January study, such as arbitrariness in both the length of prison sentences and the financial penalties imposed, and the creation of crimes for conduct already addressed by existing criminal laws.

The ACLU adds, “In reviewing the many criminal laws enacted this session, the report expressed dismay that the lack of a “smart justice” approach to crime came on the heels of the General Assembly’s passage in 2017 of legislation aimed at reforming RI’s criminal justice system. The report concludes with a plea to RI lawmakers to make good in 2019 on the promises of “justice reinvestment,” rather than continue with an ineffective, expensive, and counter-productive approach to criminal justice.”

 

Related Slideshow: 2018 Rhode Island Criminal Justice Hall of Fame Inductees - June 2018

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Hugh Clements

Colonel of the Providence Police Department

Clements was appointed to the Providence Police Department on May 5, 1985, as a night Patrol Officer in the Uniform Division. He then went on to serve on the Neighborhood Response Team Uniformed Task Force before being transferred to the Special Investigations Bureau, the department’s vice and drug unit. In 1990, Clements was promoted to Detectives where he worked in the night squad. In 1992, Detective Clements was promoted to the rank of Sergeant where he spent three years as a night Sergeant in Sub-District 1, South Providence. Sergeant Clements was then transferred to the Detective Bureau where he served as the Squad 2 Sergeant and spent the next seven years supervising the investigations of all major crimes including murder, robbery, burglary, firearms offenses and gang activity. In a squad that carried an extremely heavy caseload, he played an active role in several major investigations during this time.

In 2002, Hugh was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and transferred to the midnight shift of the Patrol Bureau. Lieutenant Clements was later assigned as District 5 Commander covering the neighborhoods of Olneyville, Hartford, and Silver Lake. Consistent with the department philosophy at this time, the true community police model was practiced with several creative and innovative initiatives carried out in this particular district. He was transferred back to the Detective Bureau, and in December 2005, he was promoted to Captain where he was responsible for all major crimes operations in the Investigative Division.

In 2008, when promoted to Major he was assigned for one year as the Commander of the Homeland Security Division, before being reassigned as the Commanding Officer of the Uniform Division.

He later served as Deputy Chief and was appointed as Acting Chief of Police in July 2011, and on January 6, 2012, he was appointed as the 37th Chief of the Department and promoted to the rank of Colonel.

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The Honorable Walter Stone 

Associate Justice, Rhode Island Superior Court

Walter Stone passed away in September of 2017.

He was named to the bench in October of 2010 by then-Governor Donald Carcieri. He replaced Judge Rogeriee Thompson when she was elevated to serve as a U.S. Circuit Judge.

Before being appointed to the court, Stone was a partner at the Providence-based law firm Adler Pollock & Sheehan.

Stone was a graduate of Fisk University and earned a J.D. from Case Western Reserve School of Law.

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Joseph Stetkiewicz  

Chief, Central Falls Police Department

Joseph Stetkiewicz served as the chief of the Central Falls Police Department from 1946 to 1968.

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Robert McKenna

Director, Roger Williams University Justice System Training, and Research Institute; Lieutenant, East Providence Police Department (Ret.)

Robert McKenna is the Associate Dean and serves as an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the School of Justice Studies at Roger Williams University.

Additionally, he serves as the Director of the Justice System Training & Research Institute, the professional development component of the School of Justice Studies.

Associate Dean McKenna holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and a Master of Science degree in the Administration of Justice from Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island, as well as a Juris Doctor degree from The New England School of Law, Boston, Massachusetts. 

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Stephen Springer

(retired) Detective, Providence Police Department; Investigator, Rhode Island Office of Attorney General

A 1968 graduate of the Providence Police Academy, Stephen J. Springer served in the Patrol Bureau for approximately five years before being promoted to Detective. For the next 30 years, he served as a Detective, largely in the South Providence area.  During that time, he served as the primary or secondary investigator on more than 200 homicides, a number unmatched in Rhode Island law enforcement. He joined the RI Office of Attorney General in 2004 as an investigator, retiring in December 2017.

He has received numerous awards over his career, including the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Award (1978), Rhea Archambeault Award (1984), Medal of Valor (1984), Commissioner’s Award (1993), Rhode Island Justice Assistance “Neil Houston Award” (2001), and FOP Outstanding Police Officer of the Year (2002).

Over the course of his nearly 50 years in law enforcement, Stephen Springer epitomized professionalism, dedication, courage, and integrity, tirelessly working on the streets for his entire career, and in the process served as the face of law enforcement to all those he encountered.

 

Springer and his wife Virginia McGinn reside in Barrington, RI.

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Susan Erstling, Ph.D., LICSW

(retired) - Family Services of RI; Rhode Island State Victim Assistance Academy

Erstling headed the Family Service of RI trauma and loss center, and is a founder of the RI State Victim Assistance Academy.

She has a wealth of experience working with victims, witnesses, and responders in the aftermath of violent incidents, including shootings. 

She and her team also provided training to professionals across the state regarding the effects of trauma.

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Lionel “Pete” Benjamin

Major, Rhode Island State Police

Lionel Benjamin passed away in 2008. 

Benjamin joined the RI State Police Department in 1958, retiring as a Major in 1990, having served 15 of those years as the youngest and longest serving Executive Officer in the country.

As a graduate of the F.B.I. Academy, he was recognized for his expertise in the prevention of organized crime and served proudly under the direction of the legendary Colonel Walter E. Stone.

Consistent with his altruistic nature, he had been a volunteer fireman for the Marieville Fire Department for 15 years as well as a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran of the Korean Conflict.

 
 

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