I understand the intent behind Kristen’s Law, but I feel this legislation is tragically flawed. I was one of only a handful of senators to vote against it, and stand by my vote. In its current form, Kristen’s Law would impose a life sentence on drug dealers that sell a controlled substance that results in a death. This law just doubles down on policies that have proven ineffective, and only contribute to incarceration over treatment.
I want to first say I recognize the nature of this bill. This beautiful young woman the law was named after Kristen Coutu was taken from this world far too soon. A heartless drug dealer sold her a lethal drug named fentanyl when she was told it was heroin. She soon died thereafter in a car, alone.
This terrible tragedy was a result of severe drug addiction, and of course, a criminal that wanted to make a quick buck. This egregious, awful crime is not acceptable in our state. We should have no sympathy or mercy on incarcerating such individuals with such a malicious intent.
However, my concern is that this legislation has a number of shortfalls. As I mentioned on the Senate floor, it is disjointed, and too ambiguous. The legislation would give life sentences to drug addicts that simply share their drugs resulting in a death, tearing apart another already suffering family.
Rhode Island should invest in people, not prisons. As a police officer, I’ve seen the impact of drug addiction on families, and believe Rhode Island should redirect resources towards evidence-based drug treatment. With more people incarcerated, that is fewer resources available to prevent another horrific tragedy like this.
Governor Gina Raimondo should veto this cruel legislation if it makes it to her desk in its current form. This poorly crafted piece of legislation will only hurt the Rhode Islanders that need help combating addiction. We cannot double down on failed policies that only rip families apart and fails to treat the disease of addiction.