After reports of four deaths of incarcerated individuals at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) in a period of three months, nine community organizations have called for an independent investigation of the deaths and greater transparency from the R.I. Department of Corrections (DOC).

Read the letter

While emphasizing they did “not seek to cast blame,” and acknowledging that individuals at the ACI may have “morbidities and health issues that are beyond your control,” the groups wrote in a letter to DOC director Wayne Salisbury, Jr. that “four deaths in such a short period of time in a correctional system as small as Rhode Island’s is cause for great concern.” The organizations also referred to family member allegations that “medical concerns raised by at least two of the individuals before their deaths were not treated with the urgency they deserved.” Further pointing to complaints from the families about the lack of information they had received from DOC officials, the letter noted that “secrecy surrounding these deaths only breeds mistrust.”

The letter was signed by the Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance (AMOR); the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island; Amos House; Black Lives Matter RI PAC; Direct Action for Rights and Equality; The Just Criminal Justice Group, L.L.C.; NAACP Providence Branch; OpenDoors; and Stop Torture RI Coalition.

The letter urged the DOC to adopt a series of measures to promote greater transparency and, more broadly, to support an independent investigation into the recent deaths as well as a string of suicides that took place at the ACI last year. Such an investigation, the groups said, “should include a close examination of the medical treatment and responses provided by medical staff and corrections officials during the prisoners’ time at the ACI,” with a goal of potentially establishing “protocols that could help avert similar deaths in the future.”

The letter, a copy of which can be found here, urged adoption of other measures by the DOC, including the following:

  • The Department should keep the families of the deceased regularly informed of the status of the investigations and provide them all relevant information as it is uncovered.
  • Information should be shared with the public in a timely manner within the constraints of legitimate confidentiality and privacy concerns. In all events, the name and age of any person who dies while in the Department’s custody should be promptly released.