An attorney for neighbors opposed to the opening of an emergency jail in Northeast Washington said yesterday he will ask U.S. District Court Judge William B. Bryant to stay Bryant's directive setting a population ceiling at the D.C. Jail and to appoint a "special trustee" to administer the D.C. Department of Corrections.
Martin F. McMahon, who represents residents who live near the proposed facility at 525 Ninth St. NE, said that he will ask Bryant to hold an emergency hearing today, during which attorneys for the residents would ask to intervene in the lawsuit that resulted in the population ceiling.
The actions are necessary because Mayor Marion Barry and Corrections Director James F. Palmer "are literally invading [with emergency inmate facilities]. . . residential neighborhoods in a desperate attempt to comply" with Bryant's Aug. 22 order that included the jail cap directive, according to papers McMahon said will be filed in the case today.
Meanwhile, a corrections department source said that two buses will be sent today to a private prison in western Pennsylvania that housed 55 city inmates over the weekend, in preparation for the inmates' return to the District tomorrow.
The inmates were sent to the 268 Center in Cowansville, Pa., on Friday, but the next day they were ordered by a Pennsylvania state judge to leave the prison by 1 p.m. Tuesday. The judge said he was ordering the inmates to leave primarily because of the District's "utter lack of communications" with Pennsylvania authorities, who were not told of the inmate arrangement.
Sources said the inmates -- all persons convicted of misdemeanors who normally would be housed at the D.C. Jail -- are not expected to arrive in Washington until late tomorrow.
City officials reached yesterday had no comment on the continuing prison crisis. Corrections department spokesman LeRoy Anderson said he has been ordered by Palmer not to discuss the jail situation with the media and referred all inquiries to City Administrator Thomas Downs.
Downs has refused for the last three days to return phone calls.
The transfer of inmates to Pennsylvania apparently enabled the city to avoid violating the 1,694-inmate population cap at the jail during the weekend. Corrections department sources said between 1,685 and 1,690 inmates were at the jail Saturday night, while the population at the jail yesterday was between 1,660 and 1,670.
The proposed Ninth Street facility and the transfer of inmates to Pennsylvania were the first attempts by the city to find short-term relief for crowding in the District's prisons.
The Ninth Street facility, which the city hopes will house at least 50 inmates, was supposed to open March 10, but neighbors of the building obtained a D.C. Superior Court order delaying its opening until at least this coming Friday.
McMahon said yesterday that his request for an immediate hearing before Bryant was prompted in part by "the Pennsylvania fiasco" and the possibility that the city will have to find another emergency shelter for the inmates upon their return.
Alvin Bronstein of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, which represents sentenced inmates in the jail lawsuit, said he would oppose any attempts to alter Bryant's order setting the population cap "because our clients will be subjected to more unconstitutional conditions."
However, he said he favored the appointment of a special trustee or third-party custodian who would have wide-ranging authority to administer the agency and in effect remove it from city control.
In papers to be filed in the case today, McMahon proposes a "30-day cooling-off period," during which Bryant's order would be relaxed, to give city officials more time to find a solution to the jail crisis that would not include opening emergency inmate facilities in residential neighborhoods.
Copies of the papers, which were given to the media at a news conference, were to be delivered last night to attorneys representing inmates in the jail litigation, Bryant, U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova, the D.C. corrections department, the D.C. corporation counsel and Barry's office, McMahon said.