The D.C. prison study commission, chartered last summer to examine the need for a new prison in the District, is poised to submit a final report advising the mayor and City Council not to build a prison.
At a meeting last night, the Correctional Facility Study Commission agreed to draft a final statement next week based on two draft reports, submitted by competing factions on the 15-member panel, which recommend slightly different approaches to prison alternatives but are in accord in rejecting new prison construction.
Commissioners bickered last night over the draft reports, focusing on language in a draft written by the D.C. Office of Criminal Justice Plans and Analysis. Commissioner Theresa Jones, referring to a section of the draft report that notes the declining use of prison alternatives in the late 1970s and early 1980s, said the draft "doesn't speak for me" and was intended to embarrass the commission.
Commissioner Rimsky Atkinson, a supporter of prison construction, retorted that the report was "objective," but a majority of the panel appeared to be disgruntled.
The criminal justice office, which has provided staff support to the commission, operates under the direction of Mayor Marion Barry, who has told the commission he favors constructing a new penal facility.
The second draft report, submitted during the meeting, was composed by the National Moratorium on Prison Construction, an advocacy group.
Both drafts reflect a 10-to-3 vote taken Aug. 26 in which the panel approved a preliminary recommendation against a new prison, calling instead for alternatives to incarceration that included intensive probation, third-party pretrial release programs and the use of D.C. General Hospital to treat convicted drug abusers.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the D.C. subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, added $30 million to the D.C. budget last fall to pay for prison construction over the next two years.