PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It turns out John Carnevale may end up spending time in prison.
According to the R.I. Department of Corrections “confinement program agreement,” inmates sentenced to home confinement “will spend one night” at the Adult Correctional Institution – meaning the former lawmaker-turned-inmate will likely spend a night at the ACI’s intake services.
“Most people look at that as an opportunity to get a taste of what you’re avoiding and what your life would be like if you violate [the rules],” said Barry Weiner, assistant director of rehabilitative services at RIDOC. “They know this is real.”
Judges will sometimes waive the requirement, but Weiner said those who spend the night in prison before going to home confinement usually have a better success rate.
“Sometimes that night is suspended and the person has a more cavalier attitude toward the sentence,” he said.
Earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Bennett Gallo sentenced Carnevale, 56, to five years with nine months to serve on home confinement. The remainder of the sentence he will be on probation. As part of a deal with prosecutors, Carnevale pleaded no contest to one felony count of perjury, while two other perjury counts and a misdemeanor charge of filing false documents were dropped.
Carnevale was indicted by a grand jury for lying to Providence election officials in 2016 after a Target 12 report raised questions about whether he lived in the Providence district he represented.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said he was disappointed Carnevale escaped prison time.
“We objected to that on the record in the court,” Kilmartin said. “The reason it’s not enough is it’s not just lying to your district saying, ‘I live in your district, vote for me,’ it’s compounding that lie and under oath committing perjury.”
Following the Target 12 report, Carnevale testified before the Providence Board of Canvassers that he lived in the basement of a duplex he owned – and rented out – on Barbara Street in Providence. In the end, election officials determined the Providence lawmaker wasn’t being honest and removed him from the voter rolls, effectively ending his reelection campaign.
“I think a much stronger message would have been time in prison,” said Kilmartin.
“A lot of people say, ‘You got home confinement; how is that a punishment?'” Weiner said. “In fact, it is like doing time but you’re doing it within four walls of your home.”
Weiner added that if an inmate leaves the home for more than 30 minutes without authorization, the inmate is considered an escapee and can face additional criminal charges that come with up to 20 years in prison with no possibility of parole.
“It would be the same as escaping out of maximum security,” Weiner said. “It’s severe in that respect.”
And the list of what is and isn’t allowed is long.
Inmates on home confinement must have a job (but not work for a family member), and they can leave the home to go to work, the doctor’s, church, court hearings and other appointments like counseling, according to the program agreement.
If they want to go anywhere else, even something as mundane as grocery shopping, special permission must be granted first.
Those serving home confinement can’t drink, do drugs, own a gun, or talk to reporters (without permission from the prison). They are also not supposed to drive a car unless they get prior approval.
And prison officials know when an inmate is coming and going because they must wear an electronic ankle bracelet that monitors them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The inmate has to pay $6 a day for the equipment.
“If someone left early that would be a violation,” Weiner said. “If you are scheduled to leave and didn’t leave, that would also be a violation.”
Weiner said a violator would be written up, and if prison officials deem the individual did break the rules, the inmate could be required to serve the rest of their time in a conventional prison cell at the ACI. The inmate does have an opportunity to appeal the decision, however.
Weiner said about 65% of inmates in the community confinement program successfully complete their sentences at home; the rest end up back at the ACI. He said most of the violations come because the inmates were caught with drugs or alcohol in their systems. There were 128 inmates in the program in August: 69 serving sentences and 59 people were awaiting trial.
Carnevale is expected to be back in court on Sept. 22, when RIDOC will inform the judge if the ex-lawmaker is eligible for home confinement.
His lawyer, William Dimitri, has previously declined to say where Carnevale will be serving his sentence.