STAN PARRIS, who doubles as a congressman from Virginia and mayor/councilman/overlord of the District of Columbia, is again doing what he knows best: trying to command D.C. prison policy. This time Mr. Parris has introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal legislation passed last month by the D.C. Council to ease overcrowding at Lorton Reformatory. And this time, as usual, the foster warden of Lorton is accompanying his intrusive move with the requisite amount of scare talk about criminals running amok in Northern Virginia. The danger, always, is that colleagues in Congress will fail to detect the meddlesome, anti-home-rule nature of Warden Parris' bill or -- worse yet -- agree with it.
The city's measure would allow the mayor to release inmates early to comply with a court order to reduce the population at the city's prison. But in a statement read on the floor of the House, Mr. Parris claimed that the local proposal "poses a direct and present threat to the safety of the residents of Washington and the surrounding jurisdictions" by "making more than 400 dangerous criminals eligible for early parole." Then came the tired tag: "How many innocent citizens will be harmed or killed at the hands of dangerous criminals released under this act?"
That's irresponsible; no inmates eligible for early release are classified as serious offenders. As many corrections officials note, a reduction of overcrowding at Lorton is in the best interests of its neighbors. Besides, the court has so ordered. If Mr. Parris has legitimate concerns about measures proposed, opposed or enacted by the city government, he might try working with local officials -- as many other members of the House District Committee have done in the past, with success. The alternative is to continue wasting the time of Congress on purely local matters that the House voted nearly 14 years ago to delegate to an elected local government.