Governor Raimondo Spoke with RWU Law Dean About criminal Justice Bills, Role of Law School

BRISTOL, R.I., September 21, 2017 – During an interview earlier this year with Roger
Williams University School of Law Dean Michael J. Yelnosky, Governor Raimondo spoke
about the criminal justice legislation that passed the state legislature this week.

The General Assembly on Tuesday gave final approval to a package of bills aimed at
overhauling the state’s criminal-sentencing laws. The legislation stems from the
Justice Reinvestment Working Group, which was formed in 2015 by Governor Raimondo
and co-chaired by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell and retired
Superior Court Associate Justice Judith Colenback Savage, who is now a Distinguished
Jurist in Residence at the RWU School of Law.

«Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Governor to talk
about that legislation and the role RWU Law played in helping to educate the
community about the issues,» Yelnosky said. «We also chatted more broadly about the
role of RWU Law, and about the way in which the Governor’s legal training impacts
the way she thinks about and does her job.»

During the interview, Yelnosky said, «I’d like to think that the law school has also
had some impact in sort of teeing up criminal justice reform. [RWU Law Distinguished
Jurist in Residence Judge Judith Colenback Savage, a retired Rhode Island Superior
Court judge] had a huge symposium on that topic.»

«It definitely has,» Raimondo replied. «Because if [this type of reform is just
coming] from the governor, then it’s somehow [perceived as] my liberal agenda on
criminal justice. But having the law school, with [expert and knowledgeable] people
around it, saying: ‘Hold on a minute, this will actually save money, this is
actually best practices in criminal justice probation and parole’ – that helps a
ton.»

Raimondo explained that, «It’s a package of six or seven bills designed to bring our
probation and parole practices into alignment with that of other states. Rhode
Island is unusual in that we keep people on probation and parole for many, many
years, which is expensive and makes it really hard for them to get a job, and hard
to reintegrate themselves [into their communities]. Also, we put people back in jail
pretty easily for minor technical violations – which, again, is expensive and makes
it very hard for people to reintegrate. So we are an outlier in these practices, and
we are just trying to modernize our approach to be more in line with the rest of the
country, which I think is fair.»

A condensed version of that interview is now available on the RWU School of Law
website.

About RWU: With campuses on the coast of Bristol and in the heart of Providence,
R.I., Roger Williams University is a forward-thinking private university committed
to strengthening society through engaged teaching and learning. At RWU, small
classes, direct access to faculty and guaranteed opportunity for real-world projects
ensure that its nearly 4,000 undergraduates – along with hundreds of law students,
graduate students and adult learners – graduate with the ability to think critically
along with the practical skills that today’s employers demand. Roger Williams is
leading the way in American higher education, confronting the most pressing issues
facing students and families – increasing costs, rising debt and job readiness.