Councilmembers Move to Reinstate In-Person Jail Visits

WASHINGTON – The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs applauded introduction today of legislation by Councilmembers Muriel Bowser (Ward 4), Jack Evans (Ward 2), Jim Graham (Ward 1), and Marion Barry (Ward 8) that would overturn a DC Department of Corrections policy that eliminated most in-person visits at the DC Jail. The legislation proposed would allow visitors at the Jail to select the visitation option that was best suited for their loved ones, be it in person or via the Jail’s virtual visitation system.

“Introduction of this bill is a great step forward in ensuring detainees at the DC Jail have appropriate access to humanitarian visitation options,” said Philip Fornaci, Project Director of the DC Prisoners’ Project at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. “Seeing one’s parents, children, spouses, or other loved ones on a computer monitor is not the same as seeing them face-to-face.”

Last year a broad coalition of over 100 individuals and organizations including civic activists, clergy, and labor signed a statement opposing the current visitation policy and urging the Department of Corrections and DC Council to work to find a solution that will allow both in-person and virtual visitation. Coalition members include the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital; Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, D.C.; DC Catholic Conference; and Rev. Michael Bryant, Retired Chaplain at the DC Jail.

"The Department of Corrections eliminated most in-person visitation options without examining the repercussions,” said Terry Lynch, Executive Director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations. “In person visitation has proven an effective tool in assisting inmates and detainees in successful reentry into society - it's the right thing to do."

Councilmembers Vincent Orange (At Large), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Anita Bonds (At Large) and Tommy Wells (Ward 6) have co-sponsored the legislation.

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