Pushing Back on Mass Incarceration

Headshot of Judge Savage

Judge Judith Colenback Savage, Distinguished Jurist in Residence

Juris DoctorFaculty

Judge Judith Colenback Savage joined Roger Williams University School of Law in 2014 as Distinguished Jurist in Residence. In 2015, she hosted a major symposium on mass incarceration that helped lead to significant changes in state law. She also advises students on their careers and assists them with legal research and writing.

“Judge Savage has so much to offer our students,” said Dean Michael J. Yelnosky. “She has worked as a lawyer in private practice and in the highest levels of state government, and she had a remarkable career as a trial court judge in Rhode Island.  If that wasn’t enough, she is also passionate about working with students both in and outside the classroom.”

Judge Savage, for her part, is “thrilled” with her role at the law school.

“RWU Law has a critically important mission in Rhode Island,” she said, “which is to educate its future lawyers amidst today’s changing legal landscape, and to act as a force to enhance the state’s administration of justice. I am honored to collaborate with the students, faculty and administration to advance this mission.”

Savage’s Mass Incarceration symposium in 2015 was fueled by the need “to reexamine an inordinately expensive criminal justice system that has incarcerated a greater percentage of its citizens – especially Blacks and Latinos – than most countries in the world,” she said.

In early 2017, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo noted that the symposium “definitely” impacted subsequent legislation aimed at addressing the problem. “Rhode Island is unusual in that we keep people on probation and parole for many, many years, which is expensive and makes it really hard for them to get a job, and hard to reintegrate themselves [into their communities]. We are an outlier in these practices, and we are just trying to modernize our approach to be more in line with the rest of the country, which I think is fair.”

Prior to joining the RWU faculty, Judge Savage served on the Rhode Island Superior Court from 1993 until her retirement in 2013.  Previously, Judge Savage served as Executive Counsel to Rhode Island Governor Bruce Sundlun and practiced at Edwards & Angell.  She is a co-editor of A Practical Guide to Evidence in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Governor Bruce G. Sundlun appointed Judge Savage to the Superior Court bench in 1993. In 2010, she was one of five finalists for a seat on the state Supreme Court. During the selection process, fellow Superior Court Judge Susan E. McGuirl lauded her as “the smartest judge on the court. We go to her for advice. She’s a team player. She doesn’t have an ego. She’s a problem-solver.”

Savage earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Wellesley College in 1979 and her Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1982. She worked as Executive Counsel for Governor Sundlun from 1991 until her appointment to the bench. She originally moved to Rhode Island, the home state of her husband, lawyer Jonathan Savage, to work at the law firm of Edwards & Angell. The couple has three children.