Criminal Justice Issues The ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News Releases


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years


Criminal Justice

“Procedural fairness and regularity are of the indispensable essence of liberty… Let it not be overlooked that due process of law is not for the sole benefit of an accused. It is the best insurance for the Government itself against those blunders which leave lasting stains on a system of justice.”

– U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson

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.  But the Bill of Rights was designed to ensure that basic procedural protections of fairness should apply to all individuals, including suspects, criminal defendants, and prisoners.

Criminal Justice in the News

  • Mar, 22, 2019: Wyatt to House ICE Detainees; ACLU Raises Specter of the Death of Jason Ng
  • Mar, 15, 2019: ACLU Dismisses Lawsuit After Adequate Heat Restored at ACI Facility
  • Mar, 12, 2019: ACLU and Progreso Latino Applaud Central Falls for Repealing Youth Curfew

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Criminal Justice Court Cases

2019: Davis v. RI Department of Corrections
Category: Active Case    Criminal Justice    Fair Administration of Justice    

About this Case:
This is a class-action lawsuit against the RI Department of Corrections (DOC) claiming that the facility failed to provide adequate heat to at least two cell blocks for more than a month and a half.  The lawsuit argues that the facility’s failure to provide heat during the coldest months of the year has made cells “dangerously cold,” placing prisoners’ health and safety at risk, and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Current Status:
March 2019: Lawsuit voluntarily dismissed by the ACLU following the DOC taking action to restore adequate heat.

Cooperating Attorneys:
Sonja Deyoe, Lynette Labinger

Supporting Documents
2017: RIHAP v. Raimondo
Category: Active Case    Civil Rights    Criminal Justice    Discrimination    Rights of the Disabled    Rights of the Poor    Rights of Ex-Offenders    


About This Case:
This is a case filed in U.S. Distric Court against the State of Rhode Island on behalf of a group of homeless registered sex offenders (RSOs) who, because of a state law, will no longer be allowed to stay at the Harrington Hall homeless shelter in Cranston and will instead be forced back into the streets.

Current Status:
Lawsuit settled in December 2018.

ACLU Cooperating Attorneys:
Lynette Labinger, John E. MacDonald


Supporting Documents

More Criminal Justice Related Court Cases »

Related Legislation

Bail Reform (S 492, S 602)
Category: 2019    Criminal Justice    

While wealthier individuals who can post bail are permitted to go home while awaiting their hearings, those without immediate cash flow are forced to stay in jail until their case is heard, creating a wealth-based incarceration system. We testified in favor of S 492 and S 602, introduced by Senator Ana Quezada and Senator Sandra Cano, which would confront this aspect of the criminal justice system by promoting pretrial release of individuals without the requirement of monetary bail.

Indigency Court Costs (H 5196)
Category: 2019    Criminal Justice    

H 5196 is designed to strengthen a law that requires courts to consider a criminal defendant’s ability to pay before assessing exorbitant costs, fines or fees. Bill proponents argue that the current statute is too often honored in the breach. A video of our testimony in support of the legislation can be found here.

Non-Monetary Bail (H 5088)
Category: 2019    Criminal Justice    

H 5088 would establish procedures for non-monetary bail for eligible detainees. The legislation is designed to address the critical problem faced by lower-income residents who find themselves in jail simply because they cannot afford to pay a cash bail. The ACLU offered suggestions for strengthening the bill in order to ensure it accomplishes its goal.