An announcement that adult correctional facilities will be “locked down” for four days to allow law enforcement officers to attend ceremonial events such as a barbecue on Mulligan Island’s mini golf course drew opposition from supporters of prison reform.
But the Department of Corrections says the use of the term “lockdown” is misleading – and inmates will have to spend an extra hour or two in their cells at most to cope with the events scheduled for National Correctional Officers Week.
Also controversial is a plan to allow law enforcement officer’s families to visit the ACI on a scheduled “family night” – which the Rhode Island ACLU and the Rhode Island Center for Justice describe as “voyeuristic and exploitative”.
Plans to commemorate National Correctional Officers Week, which runs September 19-25, were announced earlier this week by the Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers.
The program includes breakfast and dinner on Monday and a memorial service for the fallen officers on Tuesday. There will be a BBQ night on Mulligan’s Island on Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., followed by a party from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for union members and their families.
“Food, music, driving range, mini golf, batting cages, pitch and putt, golf, volleyball will be available,” the union said in a Facebook post that was later deleted.
The “Family Night” with guided tours through the ACI takes place on Thursday. A banquet will be held on Friday at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick in honor of the retired correctional officers and their nomination as “Law Enforcement Officer and Supervisor of the Year 2021”.
“This is a very special week for law enforcement officials only,” said JR Ventura, a law enforcement agency spokesman. “It’s a week where you can show loved ones where you work and what you do. You have a very difficult job and some people don’t know what that means.”
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How will prisoners be affected by compliance?
The union’s Facebook post, which has now been deleted, indicated that “facilities will be closed” during the Tuesday to Friday events. This choice of words is “unfortunate,” said Ventura, because it implies that inmates will be locked in their cells.
“Sure, there are moments when that will happen for a while,” he said. But “this is not about restricting people’s routines.”
In a letter Friday to Justice Department Director Patricia Coyne-Fague, the ACLU and the Rhode Island Center for Justice expressed concerns that “programming of education and treatment, exercise, and perhaps even meals, showers and medical care may be temporarily restricted “. the party.
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Ventura asked how the advocacy groups might know, as plans to change inmates’ schedules for National Correctional Officers Week have not yet been finalized. However, some programs could be postponed and free time shortened to ensure all officials can attend the events, he said.
“The fact that they still don’t know what’s going to happen is problematic in itself,” countered Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island.
Concerns about the risk of COVID from family tours
Another concern of the ACLU and the Rhode Island Justice Center is the plan to allow guard families to tour the ACI facilities. With Rhode Island currently considered to be at high risk of transmitting COVID-19, bringing in unnecessary visitors is “reckless,” they argue.
“There are legitimate reasons to go to and see the prison, but it shouldn’t be one of them,” Brown said.
Ventura claims tours are limited to family members of law enforcement officers, so the risk of exposure to the virus is no different from a typical day.
“These are family members they live with, so no additional exposure is generated from these visitors,” he said.
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The National Correctional Officers Week celebrations have been going on for the past few years but have been canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. Brown said this is the first year the ACLU has been made aware of plans for the event, and the organization hopes the law enforcement agency will make changes after the issue is brought to light.
“We don’t think prisoners should suffer because correctional officers want to celebrate this week,” he said. “It is really that easy.”