In an open letter to Mayor Bowser, the District Council, the judiciary, and District and federal officials, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs demands immediate action to reduce the population at the Jail by considering community supervision alternatives for non-violent prisoners who can be released without an impact on public safety.
“With temperatures anticipated to be the 105 – 110 degrees range this coming weekend, we call on the District and federal government officials to conduct an emergency assessment of every non-violent felon and every misdemeanant to determine whether they can be released to community supervision,” said Jonathan Smith, the Committee’s Executive Director.
Corrections officials have taken significant steps to address the inadequate cooling at the Jail. However, they are handicapped by the age of the Jail and a failing infrastructure. The decaying physical plant was documented in the 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. Community supervision is an effective strategy consistent with public safety for many people involved in the criminal justice system. It is an especially important tool when facing a crisis such as exists at the DC Jail.
“The D.C. Jail is beyond repair,” says Deborah Golden, Director of the Committee’s Prisoners’ Rights Project. “The District needs a new facility and one that is designed consistent with humane and modern correctional practices and that meets the District’s needs.”
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.
Da’aga Hill Bowman,
Director, Development & Communications
WAMU-88.5FM, Kojo Nnamdi Show (July 25, 2016)
DCist (July 25, 2016)
NBC4-TV (July 26, 2016)
About the Washington Lawyers’ Committee: Established in 1968 to provide pro bono legal services to address discrimination and entrenched poverty in the Washington, DC community, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has since successfully handled thousands of civil rights cases on behalf of individuals and groups. For more information, see: www.washlaw.org