The D.C. Jail, which will receive a record number of weekend-only inmates tomorrow, is expected to exceed its court-imposed population ceiling this weekend unless the city finds emergency space in which to house prisoners, City Administrator Thomas Downs said yesterday.
Corrections Department sources said that as of yesterday, at least 97 "weekenders" were scheduled to arrive at the jail tomorrow -- 20 more than last Friday, when 42 inmates ordered to spend the weekend in jail were held on buses for more than 10 hours because their presence would have forced the jail over the 1,694-inmate ceiling.
Federal officials and attorneys for inmates at the jail have questioned the constitutionality of holding prisoners on buses for extended periods and are investigating whether they should be included in tallying the jail's population.
Also tomorrow, a D.C. Superior Court judge is expected to rule on whether the city can open an emergency jail at 525 Ninth St. NE. Neighbors of the proposed facility, which the city has said would house about 50 minimum-security inmates, have asked for a preliminary injunction to block its opening.
"We will need space this weekend to successfully avoid breaking the cap at the jail," Downs said yesterday, adding that Corrections Department officials have identified 160 prisoners at the D.C. Jail who could be sent to the proposed Ninth Street jail.
Downs said that because of the "highly charged environment" among District citizens, it would be "inappropriate" to discuss where inmates might be housed if the city is not allowed to open the facility.
The city has studied other sites for emergency inmate housing, including the old Jewish Community Center at 16th and Q streets NW. City Council member John Wilson (D-Ward 2) and other community leaders successfully blocked the opening of that facility.
After the city announced last Friday that it intended to renovate the building on Ninth Street so it could house inmates expected to arrive Monday, crowds of angry neighbors took up a vigil outside the building.
City Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), joined by about 20 residents of the community, staged a sit-in in Mayor Marion Barry's office on Monday to protest the opening and yesterday toured a cell block in the basement of the Superior Court Building A -- the old courthouse -- at 515 Fifth St. NW as a possible alternative.
Winter's legislative aide, David Watson, said, "She saw enough space for about 400 to 500 people, if it was properly renovated."
A source familiar with the court building said, however, that it has no showers or kitchen facilities and only limited toilet facilities.
Winter told about 60 neighborhood residents at a strategy planning meeting last night that she had discussed the temporary jail with the mayor yesterday.
"He told me to tell you -- and he told me to write it down so I wouldn't misspeak -- that he would sit down with me tomorrow for as long as it takes, that he would release the No. 9 Precinct [station] if he could find another facility and if it made good sense," she said.
"I told him, everything I do makes good sense, and so I am confident that it will be released."