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General Assembly passes probation reform

From Smith Hill:

STATE HOUSE – People serving probation or suspended sentences will no longer be sent to prison for violations for which they are not convicted under legislation passed by the General Assembly on its final regular day of session Saturday.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. David A. Segal and Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, reforms an arcane section of Rhode Island’s probation-violation laws to ensure that people serving probation will no longer be returned to prison without cause.

Currently, a person serving probation who is charged with another crime is considered guilty of violating the terms of his or her probation, regardless of whether he or she is convicted of that crime. As a result, a person on probation can be sent back to prison for the full length of his or her suspended sentence (or might plead to a lesser sentence, even if innocent) even if no conviction ever results from the second charge.

The bill (2008-H 7495A, 2008-S 3014aa), which will now be forwarded to the governor, will require the dismissal of any probation violation that is based on a new criminal charge for which the defendant is not convicted within a reasonable period of time.

“It’s totally unjust to slap someone with a violation if he or she is never convicted of any new crime. This legislation straightens out a problem in the current law that unfairly penalizes people and costs taxpayers money by unnecessarily adding to the prison population,” said Representative Segal, a Democrat who represents District 2 in Providence.

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