In the spring of 2007, the average daily population of Rhode Island's jail and prison system reached an all-time high of 3,800 offenders. Despite being the smallest state in the country with a low crime rate, an independent prison population forecast estimated that Rhode Island's prison population would increase 21 percent between 2007 and 2017. This increase would cost taxpayers an additional $300 million in construction and operating expenses.
To alleviate pressure on the corrections system, state policymakers from all three branches of government commissioned analyses of the prison population to develop data-driven policy options to reduce corrections spending and increase public safety. In 2008, the Rhode Island legislature passed a package of measures designed to contain the growth of corrections costs while maintaining public safety. The reforms standardized the calculation of earned time credits, established risk reduction program credits, and required the use of risk assessments to inform parole release decisions. The state's widely respected corrections director, A.T. Wall, called the legislation "the most significant criminal justice reform in a generation."