PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The state and the U.S. Department of Justice have come to a tentative settlement agreement in a long-running dispute over the hiring practices at the Adult Correctional Institutions.

The DOJ filed suit against the R.I. Department of Corrections (RIDOC) in 2014, accusing the prison of using a written and video exam that unfairly favored white candidates.

As Target 12 first reported, federal officials initially warned RIDOC in 2013 that they were looking into the potential civil rights violations. The suit – filed the following year – said the tests were administered from 2000 to 2013, and may have impacted as many as 2,600 potential candidates seeking a job as a correctional officer. The lawsuit sought monetary damages for job offers and back pay.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Peter Kilmartin – who represents the state in the federal civil suit – said Monday both sides have reached a “settlement in principle,” but the deal still has to be approved by a U.S. District Court judge.

Mediation was overseen by U.S. Magistrate Judge Lincoln Almond.

According to the lawsuit, between the years 2000 and 2005, 88% of white applicants passed the written exam while only 54% of African-American candidates and 48% of Hispanic candidates passed.

Initially, hiring at the prison system was put on hold, but resumed while talks between the two sides went on.

Amy Kempe, Kilmartin’s spokesperson, said details of the settlement will remain under wraps until it receives final approval from a judge.

“But [RIDOC] can proceed using the same test for the current class they are in the process of seating,” Kempe said in an email. “The [RIDOC] will work with the [USDOJ] in creating a new exam for future classes.”

Kempe said there will likely “be some state money set aside for those candidates who failed the test for the contested years with priority hiring.” Tim White( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook