ACLU sues over law that punishes inmates with ‘civil death’

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the constitutionality of a Rhode Island law that punishes inmates serving life in prison with “civil death.”

The ACLU’s Rhode Island chapter filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of two inmates.

A spokeswoman for the state attorney general says the office can’t comment on pending litigation.

Rhode Island is one of the few places where inmates serving life in prison are deemed dead by state statute with respect to property rights, marriage and other civil rights, as if their natural death took place when they were convicted.

Most civil death laws in the United States have been repealed or successfully challenged in court. Most countries never adopted the practice.

Rhode Island’s statute from 1909 is enforced.

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