The District's halfway houses have insufficient staff, inadequately trained employees and few sanctions for escapees, according to a report by the D.C. auditor's office.
The report also found that officials failed to periodically monitor the activities of the inmates, which could have helped reduce escapes. The review was from Oct. 1, 1994, through March 31, 1999.
"Without adequate and effective supervision and monitoring of halfway house residents, the halfway house system is easily undermined," the report said. "When the Department of Corrections cannot account for the whereabouts of halfway house residents at all times, the safety of the community is unnecessarily compromised."
The examination was conducted at the request of D.C. Council member Harold Brazil (D-At Large), chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Brazil ordered the audit after The Post reported in January that one in three inmates sent to halfway houses from Oct. 21 to Jan. 19 had escaped, including nearly 60 who were charged with violent crimes. Many of those who walked away were charged with other crimes after escaping.
The District operates one halfway house and contracts out four others. The District-run facility, Community Correctional Center No. 4 on New York Avenue in Northeast Washington, has become a "dumping ground" for pretrial defendants charged with violent crimes who can't be detained in jail for more than 120 days, are rejected by the District's contract halfway houses, and are too great a risk to release back into the community, the audit found. The facility also has the most escape by pretrial inmates. A copy of the audit was provided to The Post late yesterday afternoon.
Last year, 738 inmates walked away from the New York Avenue halfway house, compared with 727 in 1997 and 147 in 1996, the audit found. At Hope Village, 414 inmates escaped last year, compared with 431 in 1997 and 150 in 1996.
The auditor examined the files of 38 walkaways charged with violent or sex-related crimes, and found that 74 percent were pretrial defendants and 13 percent were charged with new crimes after escaping.
Jay Carver, the trustee for court services and offender supervision, which consolidated the District's probation, parole and pretrial services, did not return a message left on his home telephone answering machine last night.
The audit found that CCC No. 4 is crowded, swelling from 139 beds to 220 beds without expanding the structure. Instead, officials added bunk beds to accommodate the rising number of pretrial inmates ordered there by the courts.
"This has been the most flagrant violation of American Correctional Association standards and has created stressful and unpleasant living and working environments for residents and staff," according to the audit.
The review also found that:
* Inmates who ask for passes to seek medical attention at a hospital often never show up at the hospital.
* The average time for obtaining warrants for escapees has been inadequate but is improving.
* There is no system to classify pretrial defendants before placing them in the halfway house work release program.
Corrections Director Odie Washington acknowledged that the halfway houses continue to be a problem, but said improvements--such as increased staffing--have been made.
"There's been significant progress," said Washington, who said he has not seen the final report. "We are taking a very detailed look at the halfway houses and the entire pretrial system in the District."
The audit made nearly three dozen recommendations, including contracting out all halfway house operations, prohibiting pretrial defendants accused of violent crimes from being placed in halfway houses and establishing sanctions for escapees.
Brazil said he was pleased with the audit and predicted that officials will work to correct deficiencies.
"There's some recognition of the problems," he said. "But I know that they're not there yet in terms of trying to correct the problems."