A federal jury has found that the D.C. jail did not show deliberate indifference in keeping individuals beyond their court-ordered release dates, suggesting that the District’s Corrections Department has taken steps to address a historical problem.
The case, filed in U.S. District Court, is one of a series of class-action lawsuits in recent years challenging the department’s release procedures for inmates.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth in 2011 found that the District government had violated the rights of hundreds of inmates by detaining them for too long after they received orders for release and subjecting the inmates to unnecessary strip searches even after a 2006 settlement in an earlier case.
But a jury on Monday, after five hours of deliberations, found that from January 2007 to February 2008, the District was not liable for the over-detention of inmates.
In announcing the verdict, Corrections Department director Thomas Faust said the outcome “acknowledges the progress made by the Department in eliminating the historical over-detention of inmates.”
Lamberth’s earlier opinion also declared unconstitutional the District’s law that prevented the release of inmates after 10 p.m. Damages for the earlier period of delayed release have not yet been determined.
In years past, inmates with release orders often returned to the D.C. jail from the courthouse for administrative processing, and in some case were held for extra days and “even months on end,” according to a previous class-action lawsuit filed in 2002.
In recent years, according to court documents, the Corrections Department gradually overhauled its system, allowing inmates charged with misdemeanors to be released directly from D.C. Superior Court, for instance, and centralizing its release process in a single records office.