Rhode Islanders who are addicted to drugs need help, not life in prison.

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Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years

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Life Sentences for Drug Dealers

House bill 7715 and Senate bill 2279, put forward by the Attorney General’s office, would impose a life sentence on anyone who provides an unlawful controlled substance to a person, when consumption of that substance results in the person’s death. 

Make no mistake: this bill will not mean fewer drugs on the streets. As the ACLU testified in committee, in the best-case scenario, it will mean that drug-addicted Rhode Islanders, who often share drugs with each other or deliver them at the behest of dealers, will spend years in prison, closed off from the chance of meaningful recovery and the sober, happy lives they could lead instead. As a recent New York Times article noted, it is often friends and family members of drug overdose victims who get charged under these laws — not the "kingpins" proponents of this bill claim to be targeting.

Even worse is the possibility that people present during a drug overdose will, hesitate or refrain from calling for life-saving help because they are afraid of spending life in prison. That is why the ACLU and sixteen other community, public health, and drug recovery groups joined more than sixty medical professions, researches, advocates, and students in calling on the General Assembly to reject this life-threatening legislation. The groups urged: “Use of a public health approach, not lengthy criminal sentences for users and small-time dealers, is essential for our state’s ability to continue to make headway on this crisis.” Another letter from medical professionals stated: "decades of our state’s drug policies show systemically that discretion negatively impacts low- income communities and communities of color. We cannot perpetuate a system that treats some people as patients and some people as criminals for the same actions."

The House and Senate have each approved versions of this legislation. Call Governor Raimondo today at (401) 222-2080 or email her at governor@governor.ri.gov and ask her to veto this dangerous legislation.

Remind your representatives that drug addiction is a disease, and needs to be treated as a public health issue. You can find further background on the bill and how to respond to arguments in favor of the bill here. You can use the script below as a starting point.

"My name is [NAME], I am from [CITY or TOWN], and I am asking you to oppose House bill 7715. Rhode Islanders who are addicted to drugs need help, not life in prison. I urge you to join with the dozens of medical professionals and drug recovery experts who oppose this bill. Please don't let House Bill 7715 become law. Thank you."

Your call today may be what saves a life tomorrow. Thank you for your help.

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