MoJo Must Reads

Rhode Island “cracks” down on misdemeanors

Mar. 28, 2000

One night last December, a Rhode Island woman skidded on a patch of black ice and crashed her car near Providence. The next thing she knew, she was in the hallway of a state prison, being ordered to strip naked and spread her butt cheeks. The police had hauled her in for a seven-year-old overdue court fine of $85.

Barring the possibility that she had gone to extraordinary lengths to hide her overdue payment, the woman’s relatively petty offense would hardly seem to warrant such a thorough body search. But in Rhode Island’s Adult Correctional Institutions, standard policy is that everyone who is brought in, regardless of the reason, is strip-searched, the PROVIDENCE PHOENIX reports. Despite federal court decisions banning blanket strip-search policies, ACI has done little to stem its strip-happy ways. State and ACI officials do not seem to be budging on the issue, despite heavy pressure from civil-rights groups and lawyers.

“They’ve feigned ignorance of all the court decisions and they’ve done absolutely nothing,” says Newport lawyer Thomas Kelly, who is forming a team of lawyers to intensify his challenge to ACI’s policy. He estimates that about 6,000 people who were arrested for misdemeanors have been illegally strip-searched at ACI during the last three years.

Read the PROVIDENCE PHOENIX story here.