After a legal battle, Hope Village won its contract back last year — only to announce amid the coronavirus pandemic in April that it would close after inmates there filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that protections against the virus at the facility were inadequate.
Federal contract documents show that Core DC was awarded a $64 million contract Thursday. In a statement Friday, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said the new facility would open Oct. 1 at 3701 Benning Rd. NE.
“The Bureau of Prisons remains committed to the use of [halfway houses] to provide services to federal offenders releasing to our communities, and to support the practice of transitioning offenders through these programs in order to assist them with productive and positive reentry,” the statement said.
The Northeast facility, south of Benning Road in Ward 7 near where it intersects Minnesota Avenue, is home to a large, white, boarded-up building — formerly the D.C. Eagle, thought to be the District’s longest continuously operating gay bar before it closed last year. The lot is largely industrial and appears abandoned, situated behind a shopping center parking lot just yards from train tracks.
In a letter to the Bureau of Prisons in January, Ward 7 D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray (D) said “the long-lasting, deleterious effects of placing a Residential Reentry Center at this location cannot be overstated.”
“It will negate past and current economic development investments and efforts for the Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road corridors, repel any additional private industry investments in this vital commercial hub, and further destabilize an area already targeted for additional supports and investments,” the letter said. “Ward 7 does not deserve that; we cannot afford that.”
Gray did not immediately return a request for comment.
In a statement, Core chief executive Jack Brown said the company is “committed to being an integral part of the solution and offering a fresh start to reentry services in DC.”
“We take very seriously the responsibility of providing returning citizens the critical support they need to successfully transition back home with dignity,” the statement went on.
Advocates for prisoners had criticized Hope Village’s swift closure, saying that D.C. prisoners released by the Bureau of Prisons are being sent to Baltimore and other distant locations that make it difficult for them to reestablish themselves in the city.
Misty Thomas, executive director of the nonprofit group Council for Court Excellence, said in a statement that the announcement of the Benning Road facility was “welcome news.”
“For far too long, D.C.’s returning citizens did not have a safe or supportive place to transition back into the community; Hope Village’s closure in the middle of a pandemic compounded stress and instability for our men returning home from incarceration,” the statement said. “I’m confident that returning citizens and advocates will welcome the opportunity.”
Core is not unknown in D.C. The company, which is based in New York, runs a homeless shelter and, in April, was awarded a $439,000 contract formerly held by Hope Village to monitor D.C. prisoners on home confinement through Oct. 25. The new contract includes supervision for as many as 150 people on home confinement, the Bureau of Prisons said.