IN AN EARLIER editorial, we shared data obtained from the D.C. Department of Corrections concerning the escape of adult offenders from city-contracted halfway houses ["Jails Without Locks," Aug. 18]. According to information provided by the department at that time, arrest warrants were outstanding on 98 adult escapees. When we went to print, our request for additional information was still being processed. Some of that information has now been made available. The Corrections Department says its initial report on at-large escapees was incorrect.
"After reviewing the data, we realize that you were not given 'real time' information, which should have included persons who have since been apprehended as well as those released after going to trial," Pat Wheeler, special assistant to the director of corrections, wrote this week. The number of inmates at large has been revised downward to 27. Most striking, however, was information that the department originally elected not to disclose. We were provided with a list of at-large escapees, including the offenses with which they were charged, but their names were deliberately deleted.
Redacting the names of offenders wanted by the law strikes us as an odd way to go about apprehending escapees. One inmate on the list is charged with "Enticing a child." Three days passed before his arrest warrant was issued. One would think the public has a right to know who he is. Another was placed in a halfway house pending resolution of charges of carrying a pistol without a license. Then there is the unidentified escapee charged with assaulting a police officer. Why that offender was placed in a halfway house is another of the city's law enforcement mysteries. Other at-large halfway house inmates are charged with drug distribution, robbery, burglary, assault, drug possession, sexual solicitation, assault with a deadly weapon and unauthorized entry. Five esca- pees have been at large since January.
Ms. Wheeler, in a subsequent communication, acknowledged that there was no good reason for the department to withhold the names, and she said the department does post names and images of escapees on its Web site. We checked yesterday, however, and did not find any postings for halfway house escapees -- an omission Ms. Wheeler acknowledged when we called it to her attention.
The withholding of essential information reveals a bureaucratic mind-set -- a "press and public be damned" attitude -- that unfortunately still permeates parts of the District government, the mayor's "open government" exhortations notwithstanding. The public -- and the D.C. Council -- should press hard for changes.
Footnote: Corrections has sent a more complete listing: The escapee charged with enticing a child is Justin J. Nevis; escapee Tasha Reed is charged with assault on a police officer.