Ranglin-Vassell Points to Biden’s Order to End
Prisons for Profit as a Beacon for R.I.


STATE HOUSE – Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell expressed relief and support for the executive order signed by President Joe Biden Tuesday to end contracts with privately run prisons.

The order, which calls on the Justice Department not to renew its contracts with private prisons, is intended as step toward eliminating profit from incarceration.

“I am very encouraged by this order. Benefiting from a system that harms Black and brown people who are disproportionately impacted by incarcerations is both unethical and immoral,” said Representative Ranglin-Vassell (D-Dist. 5, Providence).  “There are many, many more ways in which we need to reform the criminal justice system to dismantle its systemic racism, but I very much appreciate this step in the right direction, signaling that our administration recognizes the problem and is interested in addressing it.”

Representative Ranglin-Vassell is optimistic that the executive order will serve to build support for legislative action in Rhode Island to address racial inequities in the justice system.

“Dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline is a mission that I have committed to since my first day in office, and it is still one of my highest priorities. I will soon reintroduce my legislation to significantly reduce the use of out-of-school suspension, since Black and brown children receive out-of-school suspensions at disproportionate rates to their white peers. Suspension is a feeder of the school-to-prison pipeline,” she said.

She has also sponsored legislation providing alternatives to out-of-school suspensions, including restorative justice, as well as legislation requiring that juvenile offenders serving life sentences be given an opportunity to be considered for parole after serving 15 years, effectively ending life-without-parole sentences for crimes committed by juveniles.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell also supports the call to reduce the prison population during the pandemic by releasing extremely low-level offenders, and has sponsored legislation to end cash bail to eliminate income as the determinant of incarceration for people awaiting trial.

“Many in prison are there because of their inability to post bail. Poverty is not a crime, and yet it is the real reason so many people remain in prison. No one wants to be poor. It is a moral imperative that we end systemic racism and structural poverty. This is our moment to act,” she said.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell renewed her call to pass a $15 living wage as one way to help dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and address crime and justice.

“Many parents are working full time, up to 80 hours per week, and are barely able to see their children. It puts families in a very difficult position, not being able to be at home to help guide and protect their children,” she said. 

The Rhode Island Department of Corrections reports that in 2020, its sentenced inmate population was 40 percent white, 29.8 percent Black and 25.8 percent Hispanic. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that in 2019, Rhode Island’s general population was 83.6 percent white, 8.5 percent Black and 16.3 percent Hispanic.

“The system of incarceration is racist in nature and inhumane. It is fed by racial profiling, micro-aggressions and deep animosity for Black and brown people. I support President Biden’s push to end this travesty. In Rhode Island, we must act to address the deep inequity in our own state,” Representative Ranglin-Vassell concluded. 

The quasi-public Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls is not subject to President Biden’s executive order, since it contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Navy, rather than the Justice Department. However, Representative Ranglin-Vassell added that she believes ICE should also be on the chopping block.

“I firmly believe that we should abolish ICE, which continues to rip families apart and cause neighbors to turn on one another. I appreciate the President’s action on the Dreamers and ask for action on comprehensive immigration reform,” she added.