About 300 inmates at the District's Lorton Reformatory staged a work stoppage yesterday to protest proposed stricter D.C. parole guidelines.
By late afternoon, D.C. Corrections Department officials said the protest had ended and that there was never any threat of violence.
The proposed guidelines, published in the Nov. 16 D.C. Register, would establish for the first time a point system by which the parole board would determine whether to grant parole and under what conditions.
The guidelines take into account such factors as the prisoner's prior convictions, age, drug addiction, history of violence while using PCP, use of violence or a dangerous weapon when committing the crime, escapes and criminal conduct while in prison or after an escape.
The guidelines were developed at the insistence of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the District, who said the D.C. Parole Board has been too lax in letting criminals out on the streets.
The new rules can go into effect after a 30-day comment period.
Salanda Whitfield, administrator at Lorton's Central Facility where the work stoppage occurred, said about 300 protesting inmates convened in the gymnasium rather than going to work. Inmates work in areas such as the kitchen and mess hall, in building maintenance and groundskeeping.
About 1,177 inmates are currently housed at the Central Facility.
Whitfield said the protesting inmates were "very orderly" and did not spell out their concerns except that under the new guidelines "they would spend more time in jail."
Bernice Just, parole board chairman, said the impact of the point system would not be clear until it has been tested for a while, but that "it may well be that some of them will stay in jail longer."
The guidelines take into account the same factors as in the past but in a "more objective and measurable" way, Just said.
D.C. Corrections Director James Palmer, meanwhile, said that a transfer of 838 prisoners between Lorton and the D.C. Jail will take place today through Thursday to help relieve crowding at the jail.
The exchange, approved by U.S. District Judge June L. Green last week, would result in 166 more beds at the jail, which has been the subject of lawsuits on overcrowding. Palmer said there were 2,269 prisoners yesterday at the jail, which was designed to house 1,378.
All 252 Youth Act defendants now at the jail and 250 convicted adults, mostly felons, requiring diagnostic studies will be transferred to Lorton's underused Occoquan II facility, Palmer said. About 336 misdemeanor offenders at Lorton will go to the jail.
The corrections department has been criticized and taken to court for a practice of housing a large number of men, allegedly as many as 47, in a single cell called "the cage" without mattresses, toilets or drinking water.
Palmer acknowledged yesterday that a problem had existed in "the cage," particularly when large numbers of people were brought in late, but that the city merely "took the situation and made the best of it."
"You could go to a hotel and the conditions might not be so well that evening," Palmer said. "Our accommodations probably weren't to the liking of some people."