On October 11, 1969, inmates at the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI) in Rhode Island filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the Rhode Island Department of Corrections in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. The plaintiffs, represented by Rhode Island Legal Services and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, asked the court for a temporary restraining order, alleging that the defendants had discriminatorily segregated them from the general prison population and placed them in an area called the Behavioral Control Unit (BCU). Prisoners in the BCU were denied opportunities such as the chance to work, to engage in regular prison activities, and to attend chapel. The plaintiffs further alleged that the BCU was a serious and unconstitutional health hazard due to poor sanitation and health conditions.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island (Judge Raymond James Pettine) granted the temporary restraining order until a trial could be held. On December 16, 1969, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, alleging a class action on behalf of all prisoners at ACI, and a separate sub-class action on behalf of the prisoners at the BCU. The complaint addressed the constitutionality of the classification and disciplinary procedures, as well as certain unspecified qualities of prison life at ACI.
In January 1970, the parties submitted a consent decree proposal to the court, and several members of the plaintiff class objected. On March 11, 1970, the district court (Judge Pettine) adopted the proposed settlement as the interim decree of the court, which would retain jurisdiction for 18 months to allow the parties to establish a working scheme of enforcement of the regulations and to permit enough flexibility for necessary rule changes. Morris v. Travisono, 310 F.Supp. 857 (D.R.I. 1970).
On April 20, 1972, the district court (Judge Pettine) entered a final consent decree, which became known as the "Morris Rules." No injunctive relief was added to the declaration in the final decree because the defendants agreed to adopt the Morris Rules and promulgate them within 90 days of the judgment. This was accomplished on October 10, 1972.
On April 2, 1973, there was an extensive riot in the maximum security section of ACI, resulting in almost a half million dollars of damages. On May 27, 1973, and inmate was stabbed to death, and on June 22, 1973, an inmate murdered a correctional officer. In addition to these problems, numerous other incidents occurred, including an alleged escape attempt by several prisoners. Eventually, the state police were called in to ACI to assist in the administration of the correctional duties.
On May 7, 1973, a new warden was appointed to ACI, and on June 22, 1973, Commissioner of Corrections Anthony Travisono instructed the state to suspend the Morris Rules without filing any motion with the district court to modify or vacate its judgment. The prison went into lockdown for 18 days, visitation was suspended, and 18 inmates were transferred into the BCU without the benefit of any procedural safeguards. The plaintiffs asked the district court for declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that the defendants had violated the consent decree.
The Morris case was consolidated for an injunction hearing with the case Ben David v. Travisono. [PC-RI-5]. On March 8, 1974, the district court (Judge Pettine) granted declaratory and injunctive relief to the plaintiffs, holding that the total suspension of the Morris Rules after the disturbance had been settled was a violation of the consent decree and ordering the defendants to reinstate the Morris Rules. The court granted the defendants one week to suggest possible revisions to the rules that they might believe to be necessary. Morris v. Travisono, 373 F.Supp. 177 (D.R.I. 1974). Defendants appealed, resulting in separate appeals in both the Morris case and Ben David v. Travisono, [PC-RI-5]. On February 6, 1975, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (Judge Levin H. Campbell) affirmed the district court's decision as to the Morris case, holding that the suspension of the Morris Rules after the state of emergency had passed was improper. Morris v. Travisono, 509 F.2d 1358 (1st Cir. 1975). The appellate decision in the Ben David case is found at Ben David v. Travisono, 495 F.2d 562 (1st Cir. 1974).
Meanwhile, in October 1974, the district court (Judge Pettine) held a jury trial on whether plaintiffs were entitled to damages for cruel and unusual punishment due to the defendants' use of tear gas on them as a method of punishment. The jury awarded nominal and punitive damage awards to several prisoners, and the defendants appealed. On January 22, 1976, the First Circuit (Judge Edward Matthew McEntee) affirmed the district court's judgment. Morris v. Travisono, 528 F.2d 856 (1st Cir. 1976).
The plaintiffs asked the court to award them attorneys' fees, but the district court (Judge Pettine) declined to do so. The plaintiffs asked the district court to reconsider, and after an evidentiary hearing, the district court again denied the award. The plaintiffs appealed. On May 16, 1980, the First Circuit (Judge Frank Morey Coffin, Judge Levin Hicks Campbell, and Judge Hugh Henry Bownes) issued a per curiam opinion reversing the district court's decision and remanding the action back to the district court. David v. Travisono, 621 F.2d 464 (1st Cir. 1980).
The prisoner responsible for the 1973 murder of a correctional officer asked the district court to hold the defendants in civil contempt for violations of the Morris Rules. The defendants responded, asking the district court to vacate the Morris Rules. On August 25, 1980, the district court (Judge Pettine) refused to vacate the previous judgment and upheld the Morris Rules. The court further held that the classification procedures at ACI had not deprived the plaintiff of due process, but that their failure to develop a treatment and rehabilitation plan for him had violated the Morris Rules. The court ordered them to conform to the Morris Rules by developing such a plan. Morris v. Travisono, 499 F.Supp. 149 (D.R.I. 1980).
On October 12, 1982, the district court (Judge Pettine) ruled on the prisoner's Eighth Amendment claim, holding that the defendants had violated his constitutional rights by keeping him in solitary confinement for more than eight years, despite the fact that this criminal and disciplinary records did not justify such classification. The court ordered the defendants to return him to the general population, but stayed enforcement of the order pending appeal due to complex legal issues. Morris v. Travisono, 549 F.Supp. 291 (D.R.I. 1982). The defendants appealed. On May 24, 1983, the First Circuit (Judge Coffin) affirmed the district court's decision.
On February 6, 2001, another inmate at ACI asked the district court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that the defendants had violated his constitutional rights as well as the Morris Rules by refusing to allow his wife (a former correctional officer at ACI) to visit him. On July 31, 2001, the district court (Judge Ernest C. Torres) granted summary judgment to the defendants. DeWitt v. Wall, No. 01-65T, 2001 WL 1136090 (D.R.I. July 31, 2001). The plaintiff appealed. On June 21, 2002, the First Circuit (Judge Selya, Judge Campbell, and Judge Lipez) issued a per curiam opinion affirming the district court's ruling. DeWitt v. Wall, 2002 WL 1364250 (1st Cir. (R.I.) June 21, 2002). The plaintiff appealed. On June 27, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the petition for writ of certiori. DeWitt v. Wall, 539 U.S. 961 (2003). We have no further information on this case. Kristen Sagar - 06/14/2006