RI High Court Rules In "Alive But Civilly Dead" Case

The Rhode Island Supreme Court says even those who are serving life in prison have rights. The high court struck down a 100 year old law that said inmates serving life terms are “dead” when it comes to their civil rights.  

In a 4-1 decision, the high court ruled in a case brought by the Rhode Island Civil Liberties Union. The Justices ruled that regardless of the length of the prison term, inmates do have rights. In its decision the justices ruled that the state violated the inmates rights under the equal protection clause of the constitution. 

The decision comes after years of challenges to the “civilly dead” law- believed to be one of the only such laws in the country. 

Attorney Sonja Devoe who brought the case forward said that the high court decision was proof that all people are able to participate in the legal system, regardless of a crime they have committed. 

ACLU of Rhode Island cooperating attorney Lynette Labinger, who filed the ACLU’s brief, added: “Our court brief reviewed the history of the Civil Death Act to show that it was archaic and the product of a long-ago refuted philosophy rejected by the courts and legislatures in other states, leaving Rhode Island as the sole state in the country with such a law on its books. The Court today went right to the heart of the issue, grounding the decision in the guarantees of the Rhode Island Constitution. I personally want to congratulate plaintiffs’ attorney Sonja Deyoe who has championed this issue for at least a decade, taking on pro bono challenges both as private counsel and as cooperating counsel for the ACLU of RI.” 

State officials have not commented yet.

(Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP via Getty Images)




Photo: Getty Images

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