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R.I. Department of Corrections director stepping down

Patricia Coyne-Fague, who has led the state prison through tumultuous times, has served at the Department of Corrections for 24 years, the last five years as director.

The Rhode Island Department of Corrections, in Cranston.Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post

PROVIDENCE — Department of Corrections Director Patricia Coyne-Fague has decided to step down, Governor Dan McKee announced Tuesday.

Coyne-Fague’s last day will be Jan. 13. She has been at the department for 24 years, including the last five as director.

“I leave with a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunities I’ve had as part of team RIDOC, and I am confident the Department will be in very good hands going forward,” Coyne-Fague said in a news release.

A source within the Department of Corrections said Coyne-Fague has accepted another job opportunity.

McKee’s office said he would name an interim director by Jan. 13. The Department of Corrections runs the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston.


“I’d like to thank Director Coyne-Fague for her efforts during my administration and her decades of state service,” McKee said. “I look forward to working with her to ensure a smooth transition for this important agency.”

Coyne-Fague led the department through tumultuous times — the COVID-19 pandemic, when the DOC touted its successes in keeping the virus relatively at bay compared to other prison systems, and a reckoning over racism in the criminal justice system. Advocates for people in prison have scrutinized the system over, among other things, the lack of air conditioning in aging facilities. The department, meanwhile, has dealt with low staffing levels and difficulty in recruiting new correctional officers. Those low staffing levels are part of the reason why marathon overtime shifts have become more common in recent years. Coyne-Fague has argued that although the ACI is safe and well managed, officers shouldn’t be allowed to work 32-hour shifts. She’s sought to do away with them through contract negotiations with the union, which are still ongoing.

Coyne-Fague was often at odds with the Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers union — a relationship that the union president on Tuesday described as “bumpy.” For her part, Coyne-Fague once remarked that she was not going to co-manage the prison with the union.


In a statement Tuesday, Coyne-Fague focused on the positive, saying she’d been “extremely blessed to have met and worked with so many talented and compassionate people.”

“In the more than two decades in public service,” she added, “I’ve been fortunate beyond measure in terms of opportunities to learn, cultivate friendships and grow personally and professionally and I am excited to move to a new challenge.”

Brian Amaral can be reached at Follow him @bamaral44.