RI Department of Corrections' (RIDOC's) High Security Center (also known as High Side or Supermax) has several problems:

1.

THE BUILDING IS UNFIT FOR USE AND UNSAFE​​

2.

ITS PURPOSE DOESN'T ALIGN WITH MODERN CORRECTIONAL PRACTICES

3.

IT IS EXPENSIVE

1. THE BUILDING IS UNSAFE​​ FOR PRISONERS AND STAFF

  • DOC Director Patricia Coyne-Fague testified that High Side is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act or fire regulations

  • A major water leakage, the exterior, and the security system all require repairs

  • The facility lacks programming space and effective sight lines for correctional officers

 
 

2. SOLITARY CONFINEMENT DOESN'T ALIGN WITH MODERN CORRECTIONAL PRACTICES

OUR LEGISLATION:

  • We have submitted a piece of legislation, The Restrictive Housing Act, that would end the use of long-term solitary confinement in Rhode Island, and redefine restrictive housing practices at the ACI. It is also our first step in the long-term mission to Close High Side. Learn more here.

  • High Side was designed for long-term isolation/solitary confinement in eight-by-ten foot cells for 22-24 hours a day, a practice that is widely recognized as "cruel," "inhumane," and "torture, according to the United Nations

    • Long-term solitary confinement causes severe harm to mental health (such as increased rates of anxiety, obsessive ruminations, anger, and violent fantasies) and increases violence in prisons

    • Time spent in solitary is associated with increased mortality post-release

    • In Rhode Island, some prisoners are put in solitary in High Side for acts of "disobedience" or for substance abuse, rather than receiving treatment or rehabilitative programming

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Even RIDOC Director Coyne-Fague knowswhen considering modern correctional practices, "keeping people in cells 23 hours a day is not the way to go." Yet RIDOC continues this harmful practice.

  • Solitary confinement takes a toll on anyone's body and mind, but it is especially harmful for individuals with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI)

    • In the final report of the RI Solitary Confinement Study Commission in 2017, RIDOC pledged to exclude individuals who have SPMI from restrictive housing, recognizing the significant negative impact 

    • Yet individuals who are mentally ill continue to be placed in solitary confinement, rather than receiving rehabilitative treatment

    • Disability Rights Rhode Island sued the RI Department of Corrections for keeping individuals with SPMI in solitary confinement in 2019. The lawsuit is ongoing. 

  • Many other states have closed their supermax prisons and safely reduced their use of solitary confinement 

    • Illinois closed Tamms, the state's only supermax prison, in 2013

    • Mississippi moved all 1,000 prisoners out of its sole supermax facility between 2007 and 2010

    • Colorado closed one supermax prison, eliminated long-term solitary confinement, and launched a well-regarded and highly successful 12-week gang disengagement program

    • Maine decreased its solitary confinement population through step-down programs 

    • North Dakota, which only has three prison facilities, reformed its solitary confinement practices

    • In 2019, 12 states passed legislation to reform solitary confinement

3. IT IS A WASTE OF MONEY

 

Governor Raimondo's Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Proposal on High Security recommends moving 24 High Security residents out of state to save money, moving them away from their loved ones without making any critical structural changes to the building or addressing the harm of solitary confinement.

THE SOLUTION: PASS THE RESTRICTIVE HOUSING ACT & CLOSE HIGH SECURITY

The Department of Corrections could, with some structural modifications, accommodate the 85 current High Security detainees across its other facilities, through transfer of the High Security population to another facility, through across-the-board declassification, and/or through continued decarceration. Our bill will help make this transition safe and effective.

This proposal would achieve two aims (both of which a consultant RIDOC hired suggested):

Keep fewer people in solitary

More access to programming and rehabilitation

Several other states have closed their supermax prisons and reduced their solitary confinement populations, allowing them to protect prisoners' mental health, save money, and improve prison safety and morale.

It's time for RIDOC to show, not just say, that it doesn't support long-term solitary confinement and close High Security.