Last week, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed H7715, also known as Kristen’s Law, introduced by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston). Kristen’s Law would allow for the prosecution of drug dealers in the deaths of their clients who overdose. The crime would carry a sentence of up to life in prison.
RILPAC (Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee) is concerned over what this legislation will mean for the Latinx community as well as other communities of color in our state who are disproportionately incarcerated for crimes involving drug use. People of color use drugs at similar rates as their white counterparts yet are imprisoned at higher rates. We are also concerned about the impact it will have on the Good Samaritan Law that provides legal protection for individuals seeking medical assistance for people who are experiencing a drug overdose.
“Addiction is a terrible disease that is taking the lives of so many. Families are grieving and their pain is real but Kristen’s Law will not be the solution to this epidemic,” said Ramona Santos, a member of RILPAC’s platform committee. “Hope is one of the most important components of any recovery process. We never stop giving people hope that things will get better and that better days are ahead. Sending people to jail is not giving them hope.”
RILPAC urges Governor Gina Raimondo to intervene and veto the legislation should it reach her desk and support the sentiments expressed in a recent letter sent out from health organizations and medical professionals who advocate instead for more resources towards evidence-based treatment and not further criminalization.
The death of Kristen Coutu, for whom the law is named, is a tragedy that can be avoided not through criminalization, but through forward-thinking strategies which ensures we treat substance use disorders and not criminalize those who are afflicted by this disease.
[From a press release]