Read the full letter from Councilmember Charles Allen to the Deputy Mayor for Justice and Public Safety regarding the conditions at DC Jail, as reported by court-appointed inspectors:
April 15, 2020
Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Ste. 533
Washington, DC 20004
VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL
Dear Deputy Mayor Donahue:
As the Chairperson of the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, I write with serious, urgent concerns about the safety and wellbeing of both incarcerated individuals and staff at the Department of Corrections’ Central Detention Facility (“CDF”) and Correctional Treatment Facility (“CTF”).
This afternoon, I was privy to the preliminary findings of the U.S. District Court’s independent inspectors of the CDF and CTF, and to say their findings are disturbing is an understatement. The inspectors identified numerous unsafe conditions in both facilities, including:
- Serious challenges with consistency and compliance with public health protocols;
- Lack of and misuse of personal protective equipment by staff, such as the failure to wear gloves or properly-fitting masks;
- Inaccurate temperature readings of visitors;
- Extremely limited and inconsistently applied out-of-cell time for residents;
- Failures to socially distance or enforce social distancing requirements;
- Limited or no access to confidential legal calls;
- Residents spending days in isolation without showers and with unchanged, soiled clothing, and limited or no access to body wipes;
- Inconsistency in availability of cleaning supplies, education about their use, and lack of cleaning of the cells of residents in isolation;
- Unsanitized equipment and residents using their own towels to clean;
- Inconsistent quality control of cleanliness of common spaces; and
- Non-functional sinks and toilets.
The District Government has a legal responsibility to ensure safe and dignified conditions of confinement. Additionally, to prevent further contagion in our secure facilities, DOC must follow best practices and evidence-based guidelines, including thorough and frequent cleaning, social distancing, proper quarantining, and the consistent use of personal protective equipment by staff and inmates. We must also facilitate confidential, unmonitored access to legal counsel.
At this time, I am requesting daily written briefings by your office for the remainder of the public health emergency on the resolution of the conditions identified by the independent inspectors. I am also asking that the Executive make all residents’ phone calls free of charge going forward.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this letter and for your partnership in protecting DOC staff and incarcerated individuals, their family members, and their communities.
Charles Allen, Ward 6 Councilmember
Chairperson, Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety
Cc: Councilmembers, Council of the District of Columbia
Quincy Booth, Director, Department of Corrections
Ronald Ross, Director, Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel
Karl Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia
Donald Isaac, Sr., Executive Director, Corrections Information Council