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Purpose clauses, 2016

  • No clause

  • Parens patriae

  • Due process era

  • Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ)

  • Developmental Approach

Rhode Island’s purpose clause, effective 1944, is short and aligns with parens patriae language of early editions of the Standard Juvenile Court Act.  It is the oldest clause found of all states.  

RI ST §14-1-2

Intake and diversion, 2016

Initial intake and diversion decision is at the discretion of the juvenile court intake officer.

In Rhode Island, law enforcement can keep custody of youth for up to 24 hours before reporting the matter to the court. If not released home by law enforcement, the child is placed in the custody of a court-designated probation counselor/designee (JPO) or immediately taken to the court or court-designated place of detention. The officer notifies the court and is subsequently ordered or authorized to file a petition.

Otherwise, a petition alleging delinquent or wayward acts can be filed by ‘any appropriate person’, which includes police, prosecuting officers of the state, city or town (DA), director of public welfare, school official, agency representative/designee, and grandparent if one parent is deceased. The JPO conducts a preliminary investigation to screen the petition for legal sufficiency and makes the decision whether to pursue formal or informal court action. Once the decision to pursue informal adjustment is made, and the child does not deny allegations, the JPO contacts the petitioner. When the petitioner finds an informal arrangement unacceptable, the JPO must consult with the chief judge who then makes the decision whether to authorize filing the petition or not (per court rule).

Once a petition is filed, the court may order, prior to a finding that a child is delinquent or wayward, that the petition remain “on file” for up to one year and attach conditions to the petition for the juvenile to complete. For status offense allegations, conditions can include referral to community-based “youth diversion programs.” For youth alleged delinquent, as an alternative (diversion) from secure placement, the court may order youth to probation or community confinement (could include electronic surveillance/monitoring for up to 60 days). If no action is taken on the petition within a year, the JPO’s authorization is revoked and the petition is closed.

Post-petition court diversion time limit/s exist.

In Rhode Island, a time limit for informal court action is not specified and may vary by court rule. Once a petition is filed, the court can hold it 'on file' for one year while conditions apply.  The matter must proceed or be closed within one year.

Courtroom shackling, 2015

No statewide restriction

Competency, 2015

Rhode Island does not specifically address juvenile competency in statute and there is no reference to apply other (adult) code/s or standards to juveniles. A statutory section regarding family court, entitled “Complaints Pertaining to Feeble-Minded Persons,” refers to another statutory title (behavioral health and developmental disabilities), which may offer protections for incompetent juveniles, but no elements specific to juvenile competency are mentioned.

  • No juvenile standard

  • Juvenile standard is the adult standard

  • Juvenile justice standard exists

  • JJ standard includes developmental immaturity

Sex offender registration, 2015


About this project

Juvenile Justice GPS (Geography, Policy, Practice, Statistics) is a project to develop a repository providing state policy makers and system stakeholders with a clear understanding of the juvenile justice landscape in the states.

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