Rhode Island Affiliate, American Civil Liberties Union


Criminal Justice

The Rhode Island ACLU works to make the promise of fair treatment a reality for all people. All too often, the rights of those involved in the criminal justice system are compromised or ignored.  The Bill of Rights covers all Americans, including suspects, defendants, offenders and prisoners.

Court Cases

Currently in the courts is Cook v. Wall, a federal lawsuit alleging that correctional officials have engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional harassment against inmate Jason Cook after he publicly criticized Department of Corrections’ mail policies and sought legal assistance from the ACLU.

Take a look at some of our other criminal justice court cases.


During the 2012 session, the Rhode Island ACLU lobbied on dozens of criminal-justice related bills, including against a bill that now eliminates good time sentence reduction for certain crime convictions and for a bill that now requires a search warrant for searching the contents of cell phone.

In 2011, Governor Chafee signed into law a bill drafted by the ACLU, and supported by the RI State Nurses Association, RI NOW and other groups to restrict the shackling of pregnant prisoners

In the 2010 session, the Affiliate worked on two proactive bills, one that would prohibit shackling or otherwise restraining incarcerated pregnant women during labor, delivery and post-recovery, and another that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Criminal Justice in the News

March 1, 2013 - Judge Rules that Retaliation Lawsuit Against Department of Corrections Can Proceed

July 26, 2012 - RI ACLU Files Brief Urging U.S. Supreme Court To Review Jason Pleau Death Penalty Case

July 20, 2012 - Defendants Agree Not to Enforce Sex Offender Residency Law Against ACLU Plaintiffs

July 16, 2012 - ACLU Files Lawsuit Over Residency Restriction for Sex Offenders

May 7, 2012 - Rhode Island ACLU Responds to Court Ruling in Death Penalty Case

February 2, 2012 - RI ACLU Praises Department of Corrections for Adopting Anti-Shackling Regulations

February 1, 2010 - Open Records Suit Filed Against Department Of Corrections Over Policies Governing Pregnant Prisoners

September 10, 2009 - ACLU of Massachusetts Petitions Court for Release of Richard Hatch, Jailed For Speaking to the Media

August 20, 2009 - ACLU Condemns Jailing of Richard Hatch for Speaking to the Media

June 10, 2009 -- National Project Joins Local Organizations in Opposing Legislative Effort to Further Criminalize Prostitution

April 9, 2009 -- ACLU Sues Department of Corrections for Retaliating Against Inmate Who Criticized Prison Policies

February 26, 2009 -- Key Witness in Wyatt Case Will Not Be Deported Before Trial

February 19, 2009 -- RI ACLU Criticizes Central Falls’ Proposal to Sell Wyatt Detention Center

February 9, 2009 -- RI ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Family of Wyatt Center Detainee Who Died in Custody

January 22, 2008 -- ACLU Commends Revised Prison Rules That Protect The Public's Right To Know

December 1, 2008 -- ACLU Charges Wyatt Detention Facility With Misleading Public on Death of Immigrant Detainee

September 18, 2007 -- New Law Sending Juveniles to Adult Court Affects Student Aid; ACLU Asks Higher Ed Board to Revise Policies

September 7, 2007 -- ACLU Raises Censorship Concerns About D.O.C. Proposal to Restrict Media Interviews With Inmates

August 9, 2007 -- ACLU Seeks Review of Police Department Medical Policies in Light of Custodial Death of Brazilian National

July 30, 2007 -- Court Settlement Reached in Lawsuit Challenging Inmate Preaching Ban at ACI

July 26, 2007 -- Blacks and Hispanics Disproportionately Jailed in Rhode Island, National Report Indicates

April 9, 2007  -- Appeals Court Overturns Ban on Inmate Preaching at Christian Services

November 1, 2006 -- ACLU Asks Appeals Court to Overturn Ban on Inmate Preaching at Christian Services

January 25, 2006 -- ACLU Files Brief in McElroy Civil Commitment Case

June 14, 2004 -- ACLU Defends Immigrant Imprisoned for Three Years While Awaiting Deportation

128 Dorrance Street Suite 220    Providence, RI 02903  dot  Phone (401) 831-7171       Fax (401) 831-7175     riaclu@riaclu.org

Thiswww.riaclu.org is the website of the Rhode Island Affiliate, ACLU and the ACLU Foundation of Rhode Island. 

Learn more about the distinction between these two components of the RI ACLU.