RI to challenge DOJ allegations of recruitment discrimination

At issue are written and video examinations given to applicants for entry-level correctional officer positions in the first phase of hiring


By C1 Staff

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The state of Rhode Island plans to challenge the findings in a DOJ lawsuit that accuses the DOC of discrimination against African American and Hispanic American applicants.

According to the Providence Journal, the DOJ on Monday sued the state and DOC, alleging that the state's practice of having job seekers undergo written and video examinations eliminates blacks and Hispanics at a much greater rate than whites. 

"The state does not agree with the DOJ's preliminary interpretation of the data the complaint is based on ... and will respond accordingly," said Amy Kempe, spokeswoman for the attorney general.

A letter from the DOJ to the DOC states that tests eliminated roughly 33 percent of white applicants since 2000, while screening out far more minority candidates: about 59 percent of black applicants and 67 percent of Hispanic applicants.

At issue are written and video examinations given to applicants for entry-level correctional officer positions in the first phase of hiring. The written exam tests math and reading skills, according to the first vice president of the Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers.

The video portion presents applicatns with scenarios that they must respond to, according to the Providence Journal. For example, one segment might show an elderly prisoner who was having trouble getting on the top bunk. Test takers would need to indicate whether they would help the man, flag a supervisor, or do nothing.

Only applicants who pass the examinations proceed to the physical fitness test.

About 4,000 people applied for 50 positions in the last round of hiring, a process that was put on hold with news of the DOJ probe.

The union has asked to be involved in any revamping of the hiring process, but the administrators had not taken it up on the request.

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