The July 14th death of an inmate in the DC Central Detention Facilities during a heat wave has refocused attention on the Washington Lawyers’ Committee’s report “D.C. Prisoners: Conditions of Confinement in the District of Columbia,” published last year by the Committee’s DC Prisoners’ Project with the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP. While DC Department of Corrections officials claim that inmate Lester Irby, age 70, died of natural causes, they conceded that the DC Jail’s cooling system was grossly inadequate. The temperature during the heat wave was in the upper 80’s to low 90’s F.
“It’s horrible, but it doesn’t surprise me. I think it was a matter of time,” said DC Prisoners’ Project Director Deborah Golden, in a televised July 15 news interview on Washington’s NBC Channel 4. “It’s a giant brick building. It functions like an oven,” she added.
The current facility cannot be fixed. DC has begun planning for a new jail. The Committee looks forward to a building humanely designed for rehabilitation and public safety.
The Committee report summarized the D.C. Jail’s physical condition as alarming; violating established correctional and public health standards; with serious to extremely serious structural and mechanical problems; active infestation of vermin/pests throughout the facility; degradation of physical infrastructure, including water penetration through the walls, mold growth, a leaking roof, and that most of the plumbing fixtures were in different stages of disrepair. Read the report here.