AP NEWS

Judge rules RI prisons violated solitary confinement limit

January 30, 2020 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Rhode Island Department of Correction is failing to comply with a court order limiting the time an inmate can be held in solitary confinement to 30 days, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge John McConnell faulted the department for not seeking court approval after an inmate serving life was held in disciplinary segregation for 60 days in 2014, the Providence Journal reported Wednesday.

McConnell ruled the department “unilaterally and substantively” changed the so-called Morris Rules in 2005, when it instituted a policy that prisoners could be held in disciplinary segregation for 31 days to a year on a single offense.

The inmate, Richard Lee Paiva, 47, who is serving life for stabbing his mother to death, was kept in solitary for two months on a single booking.

The judge’s ruling received praise from the American Civil Liberties Union in Rhode Island, which agreed to represent the inmate and others who find themselves in similar situations in the future.

The department responded unshaken by the ruling, saying the Morris Rule was created decades ago to address “classification discipline” and it is “obsolete and outdated” by today’s standards.

Department of Corrections spokesman J.R. Ventura said in an email that the department’s “current practices and procedures are constitutionally appropriate and in many circumstances provides greater benefits to the population than those of the 1970′s Morris Rules.”