Rhode Island’s probation system seems to be running on autopilot, with prison sentences governed by outdated laws and a bureaucracy using outdated technology that wastes staffers' time and state resources, a commission studying the probation system was told yesterday, the Providence Journal reports. The state needs to do much more to assess who is on probation, which would allow it to target those who are the most likely re-offend and concentrate more attention on them, said Carl Reynolds of the Council of State Government's Justice Center. The center was called in by Governor Gina Raimondo to advise a 27-member working group of judges, legislators, lawyers and rights groups and study the state's probation system. The panel has been charged with developing a package of legislative proposals that could be submitted to the General Assembly next year.
Better assessment of who is a greater risk to re-offend is important, Reynolds said, because an analysis of state court and corrections department records indicates that 88 percent of Rhode Islanders who re-offend after their release from prison will do so within three years of getting out. Get them the help they need to get past that crucial period, he said, and the odds of re-offending, and going back to prison, plummet. Besides dealing with outdated laws, Reynolds said the probation department's records aren't computerized, which make it extremely difficult to figure out what is working and what is not.