The Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit to stop new residency restrictions for sex offenders in the state. As Rhode Island Public Radio’s John Bender reports, the new law requires level three sex offenders to live at least 1,000 feet from a school.

Previously some sex offenders were prohibited from living 300 feet from schools. The new law is an increase of 700 feet.

The ACLU says the law is unconstitutional because it retroactively punishes offenders who have already completed their prison sentences.


People who are in recovery from addiction or mental illness might be open to sharing their story with anyone who asks. Or they might not. There's still enough stigma and misunderstanding about the disease of addiction that keeping it private might feel safer.

The ADA for Addiction And Mental Illness
Just in case, though, there's the Americans with Disabilities Act. It protects people who are in recovery from or treatment for addiction or mental illness from being excluded from certain opportunities or having to disclose private health information.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

On the 50th anniversary of the country’s landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 the American Civil Liberties Union says the Ocean State still has work to do.

The Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU says Rhode Island should do away with a voter ID law, which requires photo identification for voting. Ostensibly aimed at voter-fraud, the ACLU says it mostly keeps those without IDs away from the polls… according to the ACLU that’s disproportionately minorities, disabled and low income voters.

John Bender / RIPR

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island has filed a free speech lawsuit against the city of Providence.  The suit follows the arrest of a local musician.


62-year-old Manuel Pombo has been performing on the streets of Providence for the last 30 years. Pombo says he’s had a several run-ins with police, and in 2013 he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Those charges were later dropped.

Elisabeth Harrison

The Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is again raising alarms bells about racial disparities in school suspensions. The group has released a new report citing little improvement in the 2013-2014 school year.  

According to the study, one out of every six black male students got suspended from a Rhode Island public school during the 2013-2014 school year,

The reports finds that statewide, suspension rates declined for white students but hit their highest level in a decade for Black, Hispanic and Native American students.


Rhode Island has a religious freedom law that bears some similarity to an Indiana proposal, that is now raising controversy around the country. Rhode Island’s law drew little criticism when it passed more than 20 years ago.

Rhode Island ACLU director Steve Brown said Rhode Island’s religious freedom law was passed with broad support in the early 1990s. Brown said the law was a response to a US Supreme Court decision denying the right of Native Americans to use peyote in religious ceremonies.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston Thursday will hear a case out of Rhode Island. It involves the 2009 detainment of a North Providence woman.  The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says the woman was a naturalized citizen at the time.

Ada Morales sued federal immigration officials and Rhode Island’s head of prisons, claiming she was detained illegally when she was taken into custody and held for a day. Rhode Island ACLU Director Steve Brown said the detainment violated her rights to equal protection and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR FILE

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is filing a lawsuit against the Providence Police Department.  The ACLU says the department violated the rights of two protesters outside a campaign fundraiser for Gina Raimondo.

Last year Shannah Kurland was arrested for refusing to move during a protest at Roger Williams Park against then-gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo.  Kurland said she was moved so far away from the event, more than 250 feet, that her protest was ineffectual; violating her rights to free speech and public demonstration.

A University of Rhode Island student has sued a Rhode Island textile company for denying her an internship. The suit claims discrimination based on the student’s status as a medical marijuana cardholder.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island is accusing the Department of Motor Vehicles of sharing personal information with a federal anti-terrorism database.

The ACLU says a document that appears to be leaked from the National Counter Terrorism Center shows Rhode Island is one of 15 states that shared driver’s license data with the organization.  In 2013 the center collected more than 2,400 facial images from driver’s licenses from across the country.

The US Supreme Court made two high-profile decisions this week, and civil liberties again made for a hotly debate subject at the General Assembly this year. The head of the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Steve Brown, stopped by our studios to discuss those and other issues.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Steve Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU, joins Political Roundtable this week to discuss a new law instituting harsher sentences for gang-related crime; the 2014 session of the General Assembly; the US Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision; and why the ACLU opposes the convening of a constitutional convention.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a Massachusetts law meant to keep protesters 35 feet away from abortion clinics is drawing local reaction.

Rhode Island ACLU head Steve Brown says he thinks the court struck the right balance in this ruling, a balance between the right to free speech and the right to have an abortion. He says the court appropriately noted that clinics have other ways of dealing with protestors who cross a line.

The Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU says the 195 Commission should err on the side of transparency in releasing information to the public. The commission held a number of votes in a closed session Monday without describing what they were about. A spokeswoman for the commission says it has received several proposals for land made available by the relocation of Interstate 195.

Rhode Island ACLU head Steve Brown said the 195 commission appears to be within its legal rights by not releasing more information about its votes before signing a letter of intent.

A statewide electronic health records program must be more transparent and offer patients more privacy protections. That’s the result of a suit brought by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.