Dec 9, 2021 - News

Scrutiny of D.C. jail reaches new levels

Exterior photo of the D.C. jail
Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Conditions at the D.C. jail have been facing scrutiny for months.

Why it matters: The jail has long been the target of local criticism, but it has become a lightning rod in conservative circles as hundreds of defendants in cases linked to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection are detained in the D.C. facility.

To recap: The U.S. Marshals Service last month declared that the jail does not meet “minimum standards,” ordering the transfer of about 400 detainees, many of them Jan. 6 defendants.

  • On Oct. 13, a federal judge held jail officials in contempt of court and questioned whether the civil rights of some defendants were violated.
  • And last spring, the Washington Post reported that extreme coronavirus precautions essentially led to the solitary confinement of the 1,500 people at the D.C. jail, sparking concerns of human rights abuses.

What they're saying: Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene this week held a news conference denouncing the jail. After a three-hour tour of the jail in November, she made a litany of claims, from public defenders treating defendants as white supremacists to jailhouse beatings.

  • But the director of the D.C. Department of Corrections, Quincy Booth, has rejected those allegations and has been on the defensive over criticism from the U.S. Marshals Service. The city agreed on Nov. 10 with the Marshals to collaborate on improving conditions.
  • D.C. officials invited some reporters to a limited tour of the jail on Tuesday.

Some inmates, such as Christopher Green from Northwest D.C., say conditions have recently improved, the Washington Post reports.

  • “It's sad that other people can come that's not from this area and get the things that D.C. residents have been asking for a long time,” Green told the Post, referring to the Jan. 6 defendants. “As a group of minorities, we don't have the resources that they have.”

The bottom line: The jail has been in a woeful state for years. Last month, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine called on Mayor Muriel Bowser to reform the facility.

  • "Concerns about conditions in the jail have been raised since almost the moment it was built," he wrote in a Post op-ed.
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