21 Aug 2014
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Hodgson Calls for Immediate Action to Address Heroin Epidemic

Plan includes proposals to spend tens of millions in unspent Google settlement money.

Hodgson Calls for Immediate Action to Address Heroin Epidemic
State Sen. Dawson Hodgson today issued a strident call for immediate action on the overdose epidemic that has claimed 75 lives so far this year and shows no signs of abating, thanks to a lack of support for recovery and treatment across the spectrum.

Hodgson, also a candidate for Attorney General, said the state should use some of the windfall from a Google settlement that delivered $230 million to the state, of which $60 million went to the state Attorney General's office. Much of that money is unspent as it's reserved specifically for law enforcement purposes. As a result, tens of millions of unspent settlement cash has been burning holes in the pockets of law enforcement and state agencies across the state. 

In the AG's office, just $6.5 million has been marked for spending so far, leaving tens of millions that Hodgson believes should be used for an all-encompassing approach to addressing the overdose epidemic.

"The Justice Department distributes resources like this to law enforcement organizations in order to meet pressing justice and safety needs of their jurisdiction" Hodgson said in a release."Rhode Island has longstanding and neglected needs in this area. It is important to have a plan in place to put these resources to use in an effective, timely, transparent, and responsible way. The framework I have assembled and will implement when I am elected Attorney General will make a strong and immediate impact on justice and safety for Rhode Island."

Hodgson, a Republican, represents District 35 which encompasses East Greenwich, South Kingstown, North Kingstown and Narragansett.

Below is the complete text of Hodgson's proposed plan:

Commit $4 Million over 5 years to RI State Crime Lab to clear backlog of firearms examinations and support accreditation.

Currently the backlog for firearms examination at the state crime lab exceeds one year.  Swift administration of justice is a matter of public safety and fairness to the accused. It is also important to support the continuing accreditation process of the crime lab, an issue which has become a significant national policy priority to reinforce the integrity of forensic evidence in the criminal justice system. These funds will allow the crime lab reduce the backlog in firearms examinations and maintain its professional standing and national stature.

 

Commit $12.5 Million to construction of a unified justice training center for the state.   

Conceptual at this stage, this allocation represents a proposed Attorney General share of a collaborative project across multiple law enforcement organizations.    A unified justice training center would be a purpose built facility to include the following:

  • Co-location of municipal and state police academies
    • Law enforcement professional development and continuing education classrooms and programming
    • A purpose built permanent home for the state crime lab which now occupies ad hoc facilities at University of Rhode Island
    • Cybercrime training center that leverages local technical and criminal justice education programs and federal cyber security initiatives from our congressional delegation.
    • Trial practice classrooms / mock courtrooms for training police and prosecutors.

    • Commit $5 Million over 5 years to Providence Police Department for firearms & gang enforcement

       The correlation between the greatly reduced number of Providence police officers on the street and increased shootings in the capital city is frequently noted.   This grant is designed to help put more officers on patrol to get guns and gangs off the street.

      In concert with new legislative and executive policies that gun crime means jail time in Rhode Island state courts, these resources are meant to make an immediate impact in reducing violence and gun crime in Providence by helping put more police on the street.  

      $1.5 Million over 5 years to nonviolence training programs

      Police officers are not the only ones working to stop the violence in our cities, and it will take more than stiff prison sentences to achieve a needed change in culture.   This plan commits significant resources to funding non-violence training and intervention efforts.
      $2 Million over 5 years to Mental Health training for police officers

      Mental health training for police officers accomplishes many objectives: keeping police officers safe, minimizing trauma to the mentally ill, and reducing costs to the judicial system.

      This plan proposes devoting significant resources to train the law enforcement community on dealing with issues such as excited delirium, autistic persons, involuntary treatment for the mentally ill (certification), and to facilitate partnerships between police and community mental health centers (ie.. crisis intervention response teams).

      $1.5 Million over 5 years for Prosecutor professional development

       The Department of Attorney General is the state's largest law firm. Their clients are the people of Rhode Island, and they deserve the best trained, prepared and professional prosecutors possible.   As Attorney General I will ensure the professionals of the office will be immersed in a training and education program that will enhance their legal abilities and ensure a culture of competence and professionalism in all matters.

      $3 Million over 5 years for information and technical upgrades to the Department of Attorney General

      Technology presents challenges and opportunities in the administration of justice. A plan to upgrade and sustain improvements to information and technology resources within the Department of Attorney General will allow for more efficient operation of core justice functions and timely access to critical information for our front line prosecutors

      $1.5 Million over 5 years for Human Trafficking initiatives
      The Department of Attorney General is in the best position to lead the important battle to stop human trafficking in Rhode Island.   Allocating these resources to investigating and prosecuting human traffickers is critical to address an issue that is a stain on our society.
      $3 Million over 5 years for Domestic Violence initiatives

      Domestic violence prevention and counseling has been starved for resources as the state's fiscal condition has deteriorated. This allocation is intended to encompass both law enforcement / prosecution resources and create more productive working relationships with our community partners who lead Domestic Violence prevention and victim advocacy efforts in the state.

       $1.5 Million over five years to fund the inclusion of Mental Health dangerousness records into NICS

      When the General Assembly finally takes action this spring to include mental health records of dangerous indivduals into the NICS, these resources will be needed to bring us into compliance with federal law.

      $1.5 Million to administer Enhanced Sex Offender Registration Database

      Later this year the Department of Attorney General is scheduled to assume control of the enhanced sex offender registration database from the State Police. With this change, and anticipating the passage of "Katie's Law" which will require DNA collection from all violent crime arrestees, resources must be committed to support the efficient and effective transition and maintenance of this system.

      $3 Million over 5 years to Corrections for job training, work release, and apprenticeship programming. 

      Just about every person who goes to prison will get out and return to the community.   It is critical that law enforcement and corrections officials facilitate re-entry and take steps to reduce recidivism of the criminal population.   The best tools for this are education and work skills.   This grant is intended to support programming that steers appropriate individuals to apprenticeship and job skills training as a part of their rehabilitation.  

      The grant would also contemplate a pilot work release program in concert with the Department of Environmental Management to use work release and work details to train and utilize offenders to perform environmental restoration and maintenance.

       $13.5 Million to establish a Rhode Island Justice Trust Fund

      The balance of the Google settlement funds should be used to establish a justice and safety trust fund. To be administered by a board of law enforcement and public safety stakeholders, This fund will be a grant resource for law enforcement and relevant community organizations to apply for assistance to meet specific needs (i.e. body armor, communications, community outreach) based on a demonstration of need and efficacy.  

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