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D.C. Jail Conditions Unchanged Despite Law

"We did not understand that our operational capacity recommendation would be legally binding," Bogard said in a recent interview. "And, in fact, our report expressly recommended that it not be viewed as a legal cap until the D.C. government took certain steps to address the need for additional bed space or justice system modifications that might impact the numbers of people held at the jail."

The study concluded that the jail has a capacity of 2,061 inmates. It recommended an operating capacity of 1,958 to 2,164 to take into account swings in inmate classification that affect the number of available beds.

Corrections Department documents, however, list the jail's capacity as 2,498. That figure appears in daily jail population reports and in a recent announcement advertising the corrections director's job, which Odie Washington vacated in February.

S. Elwood York Jr., who worked for the corrections agency from 1997 to 2004 before serving briefly as a deputy administrator with the Youth Services Administration, is serving as interim director while a national search is carried out.

Fornaci, the head of the prisoners legal services group, and Douglas R. Sparks, an attorney for the family of one of the inmates killed in December 2002, said they are considering filing a lawsuit against the District if it continues to fail to operate the jail in compliance with the statute.

Patterson said in an interview that there have been some improvements in the jail's physical conditions and in how fast federal inmates are transferred out. But overall, she said: "I believe the Williams administration disagrees with the policy that is now the law. In effect, they have said that they know better than the law."

Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who became chairman of the Judiciary Committee in January, has held two hearings this year on the Corrections Department and said he will hold a third before the summer recess if the agency makes no more progress.

Washington, the former director, said the department maintained all the data last year for the quarterly reports it was supposed to submit and that not providing those documents to the council "was simply an oversight."

As for the accreditation plan for the jail, Washington said it was part of his contract with the administration to implement policies and procedures for achieving the rating and that he had been passing on information to the council.

Robert B. Vowels, an interim senior deputy director at the city's Health Department, said his agency did not conduct the number of required inspections of the jail last year because it has been developing new guidelines for such surveys. Vowels estimated that the next environmental inspection at the jail will take place within 60 days.

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