RICJ has several justice reform projects, primarily centered around juveniles. RICJ engages community, youth, court, educators, police, and other stakeholders to address racial disparities in juvenile justice and promote a bias-free system. Our primary Justice Reform programs include the RED (Racial and Ethnic Disparities) Advisory board, our work with Juvenile Hearing Boards across Rhode Island, training in Restorative Justice practices, and convening the RI Civil Rights Roundtable.
Juvenile Justice "Rhode Island RED" Project
In 2008, with support from the Rhode Island Justice Commission (now part of the RI Department of Public Safety), Rhode Island for Community & Justice (RICJ) established a project addressing issues of Disproportionate Minority Contact in Rhode Island, called the Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED) project.
The RED Advisory Group first convened in 2008 to examine and recommend solutions for RI's juvenile justice system. Members represent law enforcement, courts, education, community, and juveniles.
Programs Developed by the Advisory Group
Cultural competency curriculum adaptable to the needs of all professionals working with juveniles
Assisting municipalities to establish Juvenile Hearing Boards
Surveying school administrators on School Resource Officer (SRO) best practices
Revising and updating the Justice Commissions Juvenile Hearing Board Handbook
Working with RI Police Training Academy on training in Effective Interactions with Youth
Conducting Police-Youth dialogues
Increasing inter-agency coordination for service provision
Collaborating with public schools to plan youth-run restorative practices as part of school discipline
This project is made possible by funding from the Rhode Island Justice Commission, Juvenile Justice Program and through the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.
Civil Rights Roundtable
The RI Civil Rights Roundtable bring civil rights groups together for the purpose of joint advocacy. The program was co-founded by our organization and the Providence NAACP in 1998.
40 groups and individuals interested in civil rights in Rhode Island are part of the Roundtable's listserve, events and meetings. RICJ organizes monthly meetings facilitated by Toby, that provide an opportunity to share information, support each other and work together on legislation, education and advocacy initiatives. The Roundtable hosts an annual event on Dr. King's day, to present upcoming legislative agendas to inspire the community to action.
The Civil Rights Roundtable is currently working toward the development of legislation that would provide for annual training in de-escalation and cultural competence for police. For more information, please contact Dr. Toby Ayers.
Rhode Island Juvenile Hearing Boards
What is a Juvenile Hearing Board (JHB)?
A Juvenile Hearing Board (JHB) is a community-based diversion program. Members of the JHB are community volunteer residents of the city or town. The goal is to divert youth arrested for lower level offenses from Family Court, providing sanctions and referrals. Typically, JHB restorative justice meetings are 45 minutes, with a 15-30 minute follow-up 3 months later. The JHB has three goals: Restorative Justice, Prevention, and Community Investment.
There are active Juvenile Hearing Boards in 30 of RI’s 39 cities and towns. JHBs hear about 400 cases per year across the state. The Rhode Island Justice Commission began JHBs in the 1980s by funding Coordinators. While those funds disappeared in the early 2000s, JHBs continued due to the dedication of their volunteers. RICJ began working with JHBs in 2009 and in recent years, FCCP/Family Care Community Partnership agencies have collaborated with JHBs to provide mental health services. JHB outcomes are positive with low re-arrest rates for youth. JHB objectives are:
Reduce the number/percentage of juvenile cases referred to Family Court and ultimately reduce the number of system-involved youth in RI.
Increase victim satisfaction and (if appropriate) potential involvement with youth offenders.
Reduce the likelihood that juvenile offenders will commit future crimes.
Improve competencies of youth offenders in areas such as school performance and behavior, family and peer relationships, anger management and other life skills.
Increase awareness of issues relating to youth and families within the community.
The 7 Typical Steps in a JHB Hearing
Appropriate cases for JHB review/Eligible cases include youth who:
are referred to the Hearing Board
are under the age of 18
were arrested for an offense which, if committed by an adult, would be a misdemeanor crime.
reside and attend school in the city/town where JHB operates (or may have committed the offense there)
sign a statement admitting to the charges, waiving their right to a Family Court hearing and agreeing to appear before the JHB and abide by the JHB's decision, and acknowledging that if they fail to comply with sanctions ordered by the Board, the case may be referred back to Family Court, and or the police department (parents or legal guardians must sign the same statement).
If the youth has appeared before the JHB on one previous occasion, they must have successfully completed all ordered sanctions, and their most recent alleged misconduct must be either a misdemeanor or truancy.
Typically, youth are NOT eligible for the JHB if they:
have previously been convicted of a crime, particularly a felony crime, in Family Court;
are under Family Court jurisdiction at the time of the arrest;
are accused of drug offenses other than possession of alcohol;
are charged with a felony or multiple/serious violations.
were referred to the Hearing Board previously, but did not fully comply with sanctions ordered by the Board; or
have been referred to the Hearing Board twice before, regardless of whether all sanctions ordered by the Board have been complied with.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will it appear on my on my record that I had a JHB hearing or that I plead guilty?
No. There is no criminal record because the case never gets to court (A JHB holds no criminal records and the JHB is confidential.) There may be an arrest record-- however, those are typically destroyed within the year.
How long is the process from the moment I am arrested to when I know if I will be referred to the JHB?
The length of the referral process may depend on which town/city the crime occurred in/which JHB will see you. Typically, youth are seen within a month. JHBs operating in urban areas may have a longer referral process.
Do I have to be a citizen to be referred to the JHB?
No, you do not have to be a citizen to be referred to the JHB.
What if my parents don’t speak English?
Will the JHB send me to jail?
No, the JHB will NOT send you to jail! The JHB is a community-based alternative to the system.
What happens if I do not comply with the agreement I signed during my hearing?
If a juvenile does not comply with sanctions, this will be discussed at the follow-up hearing. After discussion, the JHB may decide that their case needs to be returned to court.
How much does a JHB hearing cost?
A JHB hearing is free.
I have an emergency and I can’t make it to my hearing date. What should I do?
Call your JHB and reschedule.
Do I need to bring a lawyer to my JHB hearing?
You may if you wish, but you don’t need to-- and most people don’t.
What will the JHB make me do?
The JHB is committed to connecting juveniles with resources to help them stay out of trouble while also holding them accountable. The assignments vary on a case-by-case basis depending on what the JHB decides is most helpful for the juvenile. It may include counseling, letters of apology, tutoring, community service, among others.
What does the JHB look like during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Hearings are still happening in person (with safety measures), though are evoliving to allow online hearings.
Where do JHBs operate?
In Rhode Island, there are Juvenile Hearing boards in Barrington, Bristol, Burriville, Central Falls, Charlestown, Coventry, Cranston, Cumberland, East Greenwhich, East Providence, Exeter, Foster, Glocester, Hopkinton, Jamestown, Johnston, Lincoln, Middletown, Narragansett, Newport, North Providence, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, Portsmouth, Providence, Scituate, Smithfield, Tiverton, Warren, Warwick, West Greenwhich, West Warwick, Westerly, and Woonsocket.
I have a different question... who should I ask?
Is there any example of a story or sanctions?
Santions vary case to case. Attached is a video of two young girls and their story.