A fair and effective criminal justice system is important to most Rhode Island residents. The United States currently leads the world in incarceration, with more than two million people currently incarcerated. This is a 500 percent increase in four decades.
As there are a large volume of criminal cases in Rhode Island and across the country, plea bargains are seen as a way of easing a judicial burden. However, a plea bargain may mean that someone who could be innocent is now a convicted criminal. While a plea may mean a shorter sentence or lower legal fees, it may not be the best way to resolve the matter.
The Rhode Island House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill on June 8 that would allow judges in the state to expunge the criminal records of individuals with as many as five misdemeanor convictions. A similar bill stalled in the Senate in 2016 after clearing the House. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is championing the bill, and the measure has a diverse group of supporters ranging from civil and minority rights advocates to members of the gun lobby.
"States, they can pass the laws they choose," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in February. "I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not."