Residents of a Southeast Washington neighborhood that is being considered for a proposed District prison are upset because the prison would be close to public schools and their homes.
"I definitely don't want my kids going to school with a prison located across the street," Alvin Rhames, whose two sons walk to school, said yesterday. "They should put it in an area that is not part of a residential area. We are already deprived of a lot of things out here, and now they want to dump a prison on us."
Because of crowding at the Lorton Reformatory and the D.C. Jail, federal and D.C. officials have begun looking at sites for a proposed federally financed prison. They are focusing on seven acres of federally owned property in the Congress Heights area of Southeast.
The site is east of Fourth Street SE, between Mississippi Avenue and Trenton Street, and south of St. Elizabeths Hospital, across I-295 from Bolling Air Force Base.
Darion Washington, a member of the area's advisory neighborhood commission, said that she will begin a petition drive to oppose the prison site and that she and other residents are planning a community meeting to discuss the issue. Washington said that if a prison has to be in Ward 8, which includes Congress Heights, there are larger sites that would be more suitable than the neighborhood.
D.C. School Board member R. Calvin Lockridge, a Congress Heights resident, argued, along with his neighbors, that the site under consideration is too close to three public schools: Ballou Senior High School, Hart Junior High School and Simon Elementary School.
In addition to St. Elizabeths and Bolling Air Force Base, the D.C. Village health care facility and the city's Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant are in the ward, which has a high concentration of the city's poor residents.
Lockridge said that residents should begin to question whether Ward 8 is becoming the home for institutions.
"We deserve economic development and businesses," said Lockridge. "Why do we always have to be the ones considered for institutions? Since many of the jail residents are from Southeast, if they put the jail in another section of the city it may give them the only opportunity to live in another section."
In addition, some residents said, crime already is a problem in the neighborhood, and they are concerned that a prison will create additional safety problems.
"To put a prison in a little area like this would be a disgrace," said H.G. Preil. "I don't want to move, but I couldn't stay here. I have to go through five or six locks to get in as it is."