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DC Lawyers' Report Slams Prisoner Conditions at District of Columbia Jails

It has been an open secret for many years that the District of Columbia jail system is a human-rights disaster.  Our nation's capital's correctional system's faults have been compiled in a 73-page report prepared by the Washington Lawyer's Rights Committee for Civil Rights and Urban affairs and published in June of 2015.

That report states that there the "appalling conditions of confinement in D.C. prison facilities especially in light of their disproportionate impact on African -Americans, are a key criminal justice and civil rights issue in Washington, DC." Approximately 50% of DC residents are of African-American descent.

The D.C. Department of Corrections (DCDOC) has an average daily population of 2,000, housed in two facilities, the Central Detention Facility (D.C. Jail), and the privately-run Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF), as well as various halfway houses.  According to the report, the D.C. Jail's "physical condition is alarming," with both "'structural and mechanical problems that are 'serious to extremely serious.'" Vermin and pest infestation, facilitated by walls that have holes in them or are crumbling, growing mold, and decaying plumbing contribute to the sub-standard and unhealthy conditions for both inmates and staff.

The report quoted the finding of yet another study, the Hayes Report, completed in 2013, that criticized the system's inadequate supply of suicide prevention cells, inadequate monitoring of at-risk prisoners, and a general lack of concern for the welfare of prisoners. Yet another study, the Ridley Report, criticized the system's lack of proper facilities and programming for juvenile detainees, and was also critical of the lack of face-to-face visitation opportunities for juveniles with their families.

Yet another portion of the Lawyer's Committee report dealt with the well-documented criticism of the Correctional Corporation of America (CCA), which operated the CTF.  The report stated that the facility was poorly operated, cost more than one-third as much per prisoner as comparable facilities, and had sub-standard health care, resulting in many lawsuits against the company nationwide: "issues related to CCA operation of prisons around the country...indicate that it would not be in the District's interests to continue to contract out the operation of the CTF."

Finally, the employees of the DC system are also in need of training to modernize their treatment of prisoners and the jail system, and also require additional oversight to make sure that the disciplinary process become less arbitrary and are guided by policies followed by the BOP.

Source: "D.C. Prisoners: Conditions of Confinement in the District of Columbia," Washington Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, June 11, 2015.  

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