WASHINGTON (7News) — Hundreds of DC inmates will be moved to a federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania after "unacceptable conditions" were reported inside the jail. Officials learned of the conditions after an unannounced inspection the week of Oct. 18 found detainees were mistreated, living in unsanitary conditions and were denied food and water, the U.S. Marshals Service reports.
"While the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) is responsible for the care and custody of these detainees, under an agreement between the federal and DC governments, the DC DOC is responsible for determining where within their corrections facilities the inmates will be housed; maintaining and staffing the physical facilities; and providing for detainees," the U.S. Marshals said in a statement.
About 400 inmates from the jail, which houses 1,500 inmates, are waiting to appear in court to be moved to federal facilities. Most are local DC area residents.
The inspection was prompted by "recent and historical concerns raised regarding conditions at the DC DOC facilities, including those recently raised by various members of the judiciary."
Marshals inspected both the Central Treatment Facility (CTF) and the Central Detention Facility (CDF) and interviewed 300 detainees voluntarily.
"The U.S. Marshal’s inspection of CTF did not identify conditions that would necessitate the transfer of inmates from that facility at this time. CTF houses approximately 120 detainees in the custody of the USMS, including all the defendants in pre-trial custody related to alleged offenses stemming from events that took place on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol, as well as other federal detainees," USMS officials stated.
Housing assignments for detainees are determined by the DC Department of Corrections (DC DOC).
The inspection reveals that conditions do not meet the minimum standards of confinement by the Federal Performance-Based Detention Standards. Because of that USMS leadership made the decision to remove all the federal detainees under their custody. Those detainees will be transferred to a federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennslyvania.
"The USMS is committed to ensuring that detainees have adequate access to defense counsel, family support, medical care, and discovery related to their cases while in USMS custody," the statement continued. "The USMS has informed DC DOC of its findings, and the USMS Prisoner Operations Division will work with DC DOC to initiate a corrective action plan."
“The charge and mission of the DC Department of Corrections (DOC) is to provide a safe, orderly and humane environment for the men and women under our supervised detention," Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, Christopher Geldart. "We regularly work on structural repairs to the aging detention facility; however, the allegations in the summary letter from the Acting U.S. Marshal are deeply concerning. We are working with our federal partners to get the complete report in order to work through the specific findings, and we have also asked the Corrections Information Council for their latest inspection reports."
We take seriously the responsibility of caring for justice-involved DC residents and believe they should remain in DC. DOC leadership is evaluating moving inmates within the facility so that issues raised can be addressed efficiently and expeditiously.
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The city's public defender service also issued a statement about the report.
"For years, the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, along with other legal and grass-roots organizations, has called out and challenged the D.C. Department of Corrections for its horrific treatment of nearly exclusively Black and Brown people detained at the D.C. Jail. The inhumane conditions have included long-term solitary confinement for people with no disciplinary issues, lack of running water, full illumination of cells for 24-hours per day resulting in sleep deprivation, cells soiled with feces and blood, lack of air conditioning during the summer and heat during the winter, lack of proper medical care, failure to provide mental health treatment, and physical and mental abuse by correctional officers of people in their custody.
Through the advocacy of the members of this coalition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and D.C. Superior Court judges have become fully aware of the brutality a person faces when prosecutors request and judges order detention at the D.C. Jail. But only when a federal judge was unhappy with the way that January 6 defendants have been treated was any action taken. Now the U.S. Marshals Service has determined that they will no longer allow people under their care to be held at the D.C. Jail.
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This sudden epiphany by stakeholders only after White people complained of conditions at the D.C. Jail is a clear example of the historic and systemic racism that plagues the carceral system. Prosecutors continue to seek detention in D.C. Superior Court, and judges callously continue to hold clients under conditions that have been deemed too harsh for people in federal custody.
“We refuse to stay silent and call on the U.S. Attorney’s Office to stop seeking clients’ detention and the D.C. Superior Court judges to take immediate action and release clients who are facing these unconstitutional and inhumane conditions,” said Avis E. Buchanan, Director, Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia."