Rep. Stanford E. Parris, angered by a police shoot-out involving a Lorton prison escapee, escalated his war on the District of Columbia prison yesterday by calling for a swift federal study on his proposal to move the facility from his Northern Virginia district into Washington.
Declaring that his constituents "are not safe" as long as Lorton remains open, Parris filed a bill that called for the federal Bureau of Prisons to study the move. The measure was drafted after a gun battle in Alexandria Thursday in which the escapee was killed and two police officers were injured.
D.C. Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy immediately charged that Parris, who is locked in a tight reelection race with Democrat Herbert E. Harris, was playing politics by filing his Lorton bill on the last day possible before the Nov. 2 election. "He Parris will take all the press and media attention he can get any way he can get it," an aide to Fauntroy said.
Parris asserted that the bill was the result of his long-held belief that the 65-year-old Lorton "is simply a hell-hole . . . inadequate to house today's criminal" and that its frequent escapes endanger residents of his district. "What better example than yesterday when two Virginia policemen were shot by this convicted murderer who was able to walk out of Lorton with a group of visitors?" Parris asked.
The escapee, who was identified by police as Michael A. Miller, 25, of Ninth Street SE, apparently had walked away from the prison on visitors day four months ago. He had been serving a 20-year-to-life term for first degree murder, officials said.
Alexandria police said yesterday that Miller also was suspected of committing two bank robberies in the Washington area after he escaped. Warrants for his arrest were said to have been outstanding for robberies in Arlington and Seat Pleasant. In addition to his southeast address, police said Miller had another in the Oakwood apartment complex where he was gunned down.
Police said Miller opened fire on two plainclothes police officers in the complex, where they were looking for two suspects in a robbery at a nearby High's Dairy Store. The second suspect was still at large yesterday, Alexandria police said.
District corrections officials have asserted that any plan to replace Lorton with a new facility in D.C. would be "extraordinarily expensive" and "not at all feasible" in view of the city's size. Lorton, which houses more than 2,800 prisoners, currently sits on a 3,000-acre site in southern Fairfax County.
Fauntroy, a Democrat, has declared that the move would cost taxpayers "several hundred million dollars at a time of growing federal deficits and urban need." Furthermore, he has said, it "would cost the Virginia congressman's constituents 594 jobs."
Parris said yesterday he was concerned not only with the safety of his constituents but with the prison inmates, whom he said, are now housed in "an unacceptable" facility. He said that the District "would have to spend $30 million to improve the facility" and added that it makes better sense to spend "another $30 to build a new facility and protect people."
The conservative Republican said Congress has the authority to order Lorton removed from its current site, which according to Parris, is owned by the federal government and not the District government. He said he would like to see the land turned over to Fairfax County for a "golf course or some other recreational use."
His bill calls for completion of the study within six months of the bill's passage.