SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN RHODE ISLAND

"The traumas I had in High Security, in this I'm speaking of specifically, 23 hour lockdown, imagine you have a child and this child has a mental health breakdown. What are you gonna do? 

What these people do, correctional officers, they take these children, because we are all someone's child, you know, they take us and what they do when we have a mental health breakdown in this cell, there's a slot in this door right here, they spray a riot sized mace can in that slot until you almost pass out." 

                                    -Anonymous Community Member

Throughout this site and in various resources, isolating prisoners in their cells for over 22 hours a day is called solitary confinement. 

 

The Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOC) calls this treatment restrictive housing.

In restrictive housing, prisoners are in an 8-by-10 foot cell for 22-24 hours a day.

 

Restrictive housing takes two primary forms -- administrative and disciplinary confinement -- as well as transitional confinement.
 

Administrative Confinement:

  • "Demonstrates chronic inability to adjust to the general population;

    • Indicates maximum personal protection is required;

    • Constitutes a serious threat to the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI);

    • Is potentially dangerous to him/herself or others; Poses a serious escape risk;

    • Indicates that an immediate mental health evaluation is necessary, and the inmate cannot remain in general population pending that evaluation;

    • Or Indicates an enemy issue or has been charged with a highly publicized/particular heinous act (e.g., high profile murder, sexual assault or murder of a minor), and cannot be held in general population while the investigation into potential placement in Protective Custody is being conducted"

  • Prisoners get one visit and one ten-minute phone call per week

  • 90 days to indefinite time in solitary confinement, case reviewed every 90 days

Sketches of single and double bunk cells in RIDOC High Security facility. Sketches courtesy of RI Department of Corrections.

Disciplinary Confinement:

  • Formerly called segregation, more restrictive treatment than administrative confinement

  • Used for inmates who are found guilty of a disciplinary infraction or when other forms of confinement would cause harm

  • Prisoners may only receive legal or professional visits and no phone calls for at least 30 days

  • 1-365 days in solitary confinement 

Transitional Confinement:

  • New term after Solitary Study Commission 2016-17

  • Formerly Close Confinement, incarcerated individuals classified to this status are provided "the supervision and programming required to prepare them for their return to General Population from Restrictive Housing

  • Minimum of two hours per day out-of-cell, five days per week (excluding weekends and olidays)

  • RIDOC does not consider this classification Restrictive Housing, even though individuals' out of cell time is restricted on weekends and holidays

In 2019, RIDOC Director Patricia Coyne-Fague noted in her testimony to the RI House Finance Committee that when considering modern correctional practices, "keeping people in cells 23 hours a day is not the way to go." 

Yet RIDOC does that and has no plan to change.

To learn more:

RIDOC's website outlines the conditions of confinement policies and the privileges implied in each confinement status.