Senate Delays Vote On Mandatory Sentencing Bill For Drug Dealers

May 23, 2018

The Rhode Island Senate postponed a scheduled vote Wednesday night on a bill that would mandate life sentences for drug dealers in fatal overdose cases, following an appeal from the medical community.

Nearly 80 people and representatives of organizations – including the Rhode Island Medical Society, the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild – signed a letter to the Senate saying the bill would have a harmful impact on efforts to address the state’s opioid crisis.

The letter from The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at The Miriam Hospital said many of the people who sell and trade drugs do so to support their addiction. The letter asked the Senators to send the bill back to committee for further study.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo, D-Cranston, was introduced at the request of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. The bill -- named Kristen’s Law -- is designed to “send a strong message to drug traffickers,” Kilmartin said in a statement.

The bill is expected to be rescheduled for a vote Tuesday, Greg Pare, a Senate spokesman said.