Every Kid Deserves a Future – End Juvenile Life Sentencing Without Parole in RI!

What is RI General Assembly Bill H5333 / RI Senate Bill S0341?

In the 2012 Miller v. Alabama decision, the Supreme Court ruled that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional. Black and Pink is joining activists in states across the country to ensure that Rhode Island has policies in place to prevent caging children for life. This bill would ensure that people under 18 years old who were sentenced as adults are given a parole hearing after serving 15 years of their sentence, with the parole board making a call on whether or not they are ready for re-entry. The State Senate passed the bill in 2017 but we need to work together for it to pass in the House General Assembly (H5333) and again in the Senate this year (S0341) to become law.

There are currently six people at the ACI in Cranston, including one Black & Pink member, who would be affected by the passage of the bill. Each of these people were given one or more life sentences when they were under 18 years old. We also know that the regions of adolescents’ brains that deal with impulse control and long term thinking are not as developed as they are in adults. Additionally, young people who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) or traumatic events early in life are more likely to be less developed in those regions of the brain than their peers, due to toxic stress. People incarcerated as juveniles are also more likely to age out of crime and rehabilitate than adults are.

We at Black and Pink believe everyone is more than the worst thing they’ve ever done. We believe in the power of people both young and old to change and grow, and we hope that Rhode Island House of Representatives and Senate Representatives will pass H5333 and S0341 to allow people who made mistakes in their youth a second chance at life.

Two ways Rhode Islanders can help pass H5333 and S0341:

  1. Show up to the bill hearings at the RI State House (82 Smith Street in Providence). The most crucial hearing, H5333, is happening Tuesday, March 5 at 4:30. When you arrive, we will help you sign your name to mark yourself in support of the bill. You can stay to listen to testimonies and show the general assembly that their constituents are counting on them to vote yes. Stay tuned to our Facebook page and Instagram for an announcement about the date for the hearing for S0341.
  2. Contact your representatives to encourage them to vote YES on these bills. Here’s how:

Step 1

Enter your address on https://vote.sos.ri.gov/#officials-search to find 2 names – your “Representative in General Assembly” and your “Senator in General Assembly”

Step 2

Find your Representative’s contact info here: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Email/RepEmailListDistrict.asp – this is the person to contact in support of H5333.

Find your Senator’s contact info here: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Email/SenEmailListDistrict.asp – this is the person to contact in support of S0341

Step 3

Call and/or email both of them! This takes just a few minutes and makes a big difference. When you call, you may be speaking directly with your representative, someone in their office, or an answering machine.

Sample script:

Hello, my name is _______ and I live at *street address* in your ward. I ’m calling/writing for Rep./Senator [rep/senator name] to vote yes on [H5333 (for house version) OR S0341 (for senate version)]. This bill would ban sentencing juvenile offenders to life without the possibility of parole; it would also allow current juvenile offenders serving life sentences to be eligible for parole after serving 15 years. If passed, this bill would only affect 6 offenders- granting them the possibility of a parole hearing, not a guaranteed release.

*state any other reasons for supporting the bill, or you can keep the call brief*

Thank you for joining me and our neighbors in support of bill H5333/S0341.

Further reading on the issue of juvenile sentencing:

Press Release from this bill’s introduction in RI last year

The Sentencing Project – Juvenile Life Without Parole: An Overview

The Marshall Project – Juvenile Life Without Parole: A Curated Collection of Links

ACLU Report – Racial Disparities in Sentencing (October 27, 2014)

National Center for Youth Law – The Case Against Juvenile Life Without Parole

The Sentencing Project – The Lives of Juvenile Lifers: Findings from a National Survey

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