Former Attorney General Jim O’Neil has come out in strong support of reforming the state’s probation rules — the very rules he put in place when he was in office. The Senate hearing on Sen Perry’s probation reform bill is today. (I’m the House sponsor.)
Former Attorney General Joins Supporters of Probation Reform Legislation
Urges Reform of Policies He Helped Put Into Place
April 6, 2010
Representative David Segal, 499-5991, James O’Neil, 667-7111
Former Rhode Island Attorney General James O’Neil released a statement today in support of the “Justice and Innocence” Bill to reform Rhode Island’s probation revocation laws, which are the most regressive in the country. This legislation, H7347 sponsored by Representative David Segal and S2225 sponsored by Senator Rhoda Perry, would end the prison sentence of people incarcerated as probation violators and later acquitted of the charges.
O’Neil states, “It is my firm belief that one should not be found to be a violator with respect to a sentence earlier imposed if in fact the underlying case which triggers the probation violation allegation results in an acquittal or dismissal of the alleged charges.”
O’Neil was the Attorney General from 1987-1993 and oversaw the development of the probation revocation rules that the legislation seeks to reform. Prior to being Attorney General, he was a federal prosecutor for the US Department of Justice for 14 years. O’Neil joins other individuals involved in law enforcement that have already voiced support of this legislation, including former Superior Court Judge Stephen Fortunato, former police officer Representative Joseph Almeida, and former police officer Representative John Carnevale.
The legislation passed the General Assembly in 2008 and 2009 but was vetoed by Governor Carcieri both years. Rhode Island is one of only three states that revokes probation using the lowest standard possible, “reasonable satisfaction.”
Representative David Segal welcomed O’Neil’s support, saying, “Having viewed the probation violation process through the lenses of both a prosecutor and defense attorney, Attorney General O’Neil understands that the system is broken — and also that this legislation presents a critical chance to fix it. Probation reform supporters are thrilled to have his support, and deeply grateful that he is willing to take such a strong public stand. People from all sides and from all over the state are demanding that we stop incarcerating people that have been found innocent.”