Capitol Hill residents blocked the planned opening yesterday of a new emergency inmate shelter, causing D.C. Jail officials to resume last night their week-old practice of delaying entry to prisoners arriving at the facility from D.C. Superior Court until officials were assured that the court-imposed population ceiling of 1,694 was not exceeded.
The residents, who have carried on protests since the planned opening of the facility was disclosed on Friday, asked a D.C. judge yesterday to stop the opening of the shelter at 525 Ninth St. NE until public hearings can be held. D.C. Superior Court Judge Curtis E. von Kann set a hearing on the residents' request for this afternoon.
The residents' protest prompted city officials to pledge not to move the inmates in until officials have had a chance to consult with the residents and calm their fears about the shelter.
At least 10 inmates arriving at the D.C. Jail from court had to wait about an hour before being admitted to the jail, and other inmates scheduled to be transferred to Lorton Reformatory were waiting on buses outside the jail. Corrections Director James F. Palmer said he did not know of any delay in admitting the inmates and said the official 4 a.m. count today should be about 1,675.
In other developments yesterday in the city's jail crowding crisis:
*D.C. Superior Court Judge Henry F. Greene ordered Palmer into court March 24 to show why he should not be held in contempt for transferring an inmate with three previous convictions to work-release, without Greene's approval, after the man had served only 10 days of a 120-day jail sentence.
*Mayor Marion Barry sent a list of three possible sites for a new prison inside the city -- two in Northeast adjacent to the National Arboretum and the third near the new homeless shelter in Southeast -- to U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III, and Barry blamed the federal government for the "planning and decision-making process" being "further behind than I would have hoped."
Barry's disclosure of his current list of possible sites, culled from a 16-tract pool, came nearly a month after federal officials notified him that they had made arrangements to secure a site for the city on North Capitol Street near Children's Hospital, which the city had requested.
Area residents mounted a swift and vigorous protest to the use of the site, adjacent to McMillan Reservoir, for a new prison, and Barry said the city will not build the facility there.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Royce C. Lamberth, the federal government's chief negotiator on the prison problems, said he had no comment on Barry's letter.
A federal official said he did not know what action the government would take on the city's new list because city officials have not explained why the three sites suggested to Barry in a letter from Deputy U.S. Attorney General D. Lowell Jensen -- McMillan, the old D.C. Jail and St. Elizabeths Hospital -- were unacceptable.
At least two of the sites chosen by Barry -- near the homeless shelter and the old brick kilns on New York Avenue adjacent to the arboretum -- are in 100-year flood plains, which probably would rule out their use, sources said.
It was unclear last night which agency owns the third site -- 10 acres between New York Avenue and the railroad tracks east of South Dakota Avenue NE.
The order for Palmer to show why he should not be held in contempt is the third contempt action under way against the city and corrections department. Attorneys for inmates at the D.C. Jail have asked U.S. District Judge William B. Bryant to hold the city in contempt and fine it $50,000 for violating the inmate limit on Dec. 7 and then attempting to cover up the violation.
Attorneys for inmates at Lorton Reformatory's Central facility have asked U.S. District Judge June Green to hold the city in contempt and fine it $7,500 for failing to live up to a court agreement on the operation of the facility.
In his order, Greene said he became aware that Fernando A. Jones, whom he sentenced to a prison term on Jan. 29, was not in the D.C. Jail only after receiving a letter Palmer wrote asking the judge to agree to a transfer of Jones.
After receiving the Feb. 18 letter from Palmer saying the corrections chief needed to transfer 16 prisoners to ease prison crowding, Greene stated that when he checked Jones' status he discovered that Jones had been placed in a halfway house 11 days before the date of Palmer's letter.
Greene noted that Jones had three convictions, two charges pending against him in Virginia and had pleaded guilty to possession charges after being charged with possession with intent to distribute PCP, a felony. At the time Jones was arrested, Greene said, Jones had 20 packets of marijuana laced with PCP in a bag in his jacket pocket.
Corrections spokesman Leroy Anderson said yesterday that Palmer would not comment on Greene's order.
At least four other persons have been transferred to a work-release program without the approval of a judge, court documents showed yesterday.