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

  • Jan, 24, 2020: Department of Corrections Agrees to Release Inmate Unlawfully Held At ACI
  • Jan, 21, 2020: ACLU Sues Department of Corrections for Unilaterally Increasing Prison Time for Certain Offenders
  • Jan, 20, 2020: ACLU Takes Legal Action over Unlawful Arrest of 13-Year-Old Honors Student

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Criminal Justice Court Cases

2020: McKinney v. RIDOC
Category: Active Case    Criminal Justice    Due Process    Fair Administration of Justice    

About this Case:
This is a habeas corpus petition which argues that an inmate is being unlawfully held despite a decision by the R.I. Parole Board that he was qualified and ready for release on supervised parole.

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in January 2020. The defendants agreed to release the inmate.

Cooperating Attorneys:
Lisa Holley, Lynette Labinger

Supporting Documents
2020: Johnson v. Pawtucket
Category: Active Case    Civil Rights    Criminal Justice    Discrimination    Racial/Ethnic Discrimination    Police Practices    Students' Rights    Youth Rights    

About this Case:
This is a legal claim for damages sent to the City of Pawtucket over a School Resource Officer’s (SRO) unlawful handcuffing and arrest of a 13-year-old African-American middle school honors student. The damages claim is a required legal prerequisite to the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of the student.

Current Status:
Claim filed in January 2020.

Cooperating Attorney:
Shannah Kurland

Supporting Documents

More Criminal Justice Related Court Cases »

Related Legislation

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing (S 2004A, H 7102) HFFS
Category: 2020    Criminal Justice    

The ACLU has consistently opposed the imposition of mandatory minimum sentencing terms on the grounds that they are ineffective, costly, eliminate individualized consideration of the offender and the circumstances of the offense, and place too much power in the hands of prosecutors instead of neutral judges. A bill concerning “ghost guns”, or guns which are untraceable or do not appear on metal detectors, heard in both the House and the Senate in the second week of the session, contains such a provision which would have imposed such mandatory minimum sentences for new criminal offenses relating to weapons. We testified in opposition, arguing that the state should refrain from passing legislation that expands the use of mandatory minimum sentencing procedures.