Who We Are
DARE members formed the Behind the Walls Committee over two decades ago in resistance to the prison system. We are a community of people who have been impacted by incarceration. Some have records and others are loved ones of people behind bars. Our community’s victories include voting rights for formerly incarcerated people; increased access to public housing for folks with records; and Ban the Box legislation that made it illegal for an employer to require an applicant to disclose their record [need to include links]. We offer care and support for each other as we navigate the challenges of life post-incarceration.
Because of the COVID outbreak, we currently meet on Zoom. Our meetings are every Wednesday from 6-8 PM. For more information about how to join, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fair Chance Licensing
In 2020, with support from over 40 allied organizations, Behind the Walls passed the statewide Fair Chance Licensing Bill! This bill creates opportunity for people with conviction histories to seek meaningful, stable careers ranging from barber to nurse to social worker to real estate agent. One in three Rhode Islanders have a conviction history and face discriminatory barriers in meeting basic needs, from housing to employment. Our bill is a small but significant step towards repairing the vast harm that mass criminalization has inflicted on Black and brown communities.
Our bill went into effect in January 2021. Before the law passed, there were over 150 laws creating barriers for people with records who were applying for occupational licenses. Our bill creates a transparent process in which you cannot be denied a license unless your record is relevant for the job in question.
We are currently working on outreach to people with records, employers, and training programs about changes to the law. We will be tracking and supporting applicants on our end to hold agencies accountable and ensure that the bill is being implemented. If you or somebody you know is interested in pursuing an occupational license after release and would like support in that process, please contact us.
To learn more about the campaign, our coalition, and the bill, check out our Fair Chance Licensing website.
Community Court Debt Fund
Inspired by community court debt funds around the country and the FANG Collective’s local bail fund, the Behind the Walls Committee is organizing a community fund to support Rhode Islanders in paying off criminal court fines, fees, and restitution. Many Rhode Islanders finish prison sentences and come out only to face enormous debts assigned by the courts. Formerly incarcerated people must already navigate countless discriminatory barriers to finding job training, stable employment, housing, and healthcare. Court debt is yet another barrier to successful reentry. In fact, in Rhode Island, it can become grounds for reincarceration. If someone fails to make a payment, a warrant can be issued for their arrest, or the missed payment can be grounds for violation.
A committee of formerly incarcerated Behind the Walls members and DARE staff will determine the distribution of incoming funds, and all information about incoming and outgoing funds will be shared monthly on this page. Until enough funds become available, preference will be given to community members who are involved in our work.
Donate here to the fund, and be sure to write “Court Debt” in the designation line.
Apply here to request funds. We will get back to you ASAP with an update on what funds are available!
Did you know that you can request a reduction in court debt based on your ability to pay? [include handout and FIA]