DC jail inmates moved by the hundreds after probe finds standing sewage, cold meals, water shut off for days

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An “unannounced inspection” of two jails operated by the District of Columbia revealed that one detention facility has “evidence of systemic failures” including “large amounts of standing human sewage,” and water being “shut off for days.”

The surprise inspection was conducted by the U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia during the week of Oct. 18 and was focused on two District of Columbia Department of Corrections detention centers, including the Central Treatment Facility and the Central Detention Facility, according to a press release.

As a result of the inspection, the U.S. Marshals Service announced that 400 inmates at the Central Detention Facility would be moved to the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. No inmates will be transferred from the Central Treatment Facility, which houses all defendants who are in pre-trial relating to charges from the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Those 400 inmates are under the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

According to the press release, “minimum standards of confinement” were not met at the Central Detention Facility.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks during a news conference in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks during a news conference in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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In a letter to Quincy L. Booth, Director for the D.C. Department of Corrections on Nov. 3, Lamont Ruffin, the acting United States Marshal for the District of Columbia detailed that there is “evidence of systemic failures” at the Central Detention Facility.

These failures allegedly include water and food appearing to be withheld as a form of punishment as well as “large amounts of standing human sewage” in the toilets of multiple cells.

“The water in many of the cells within South 1 and North 1 had been shut off for days, inhibiting detainees from drinking water, washing hands, or flushing toilets,” the letter said.

The letter also alleged that the food given to inmates was “cold and congealed,” and “evidence of drug use was pervasive.”

Central Detention Facility

Central Detention Facility
(D.C. Department of Corrections)

The District of Columbia Department of Corrections staff at the Central Detention Facility seemed unaware or uninterested in any of these issues,” according to the letter.

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Staff at the Central Detention Facility were also observed not following COVID-19 policies and were seen “antagonizing detainees,” according to the letter.

Ruffin said in the filing that he has forwarded the investigation results to the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division for a review of possible violations of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: The U.S. Department of Justice is seen on June 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump's Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for data from House Intelligence Committee Democrats including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and their families.

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 11: The U.S. Department of Justice is seen on June 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump’s Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for data from House Intelligence Committee Democrats including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and their families.
(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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District of Columbia Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Christopher Geldart said in a statement to Fox 5 that the investigation’s findings are “deeply concerning.”

“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. 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,” Geldart said.

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