A District halfway house has filed a formal protest with the federal government after a company won a contract to establish a competing facility in the city, saying the company had an unrealistic plan that might result in housing violent sex offenders near children.
Hope Village, which opened in 1978 off the Suitland Parkway in Southeast, has enjoyed a monopoly for more than a decade on housing D.C. men released from prison, winning more than $125 million in federal contracts since 2006.
But that ended Nov. 1 when Core DC, a subsidiary of a Florida-based corrections company, won a five-year $60 million contract.A Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman said the new halfway house for 300 former prisoners would open March 1 at 3400 New York Ave. in Northeast, an industrial area near the Maryland line.
In a 44-page bid protest to the Government Accountability Office on Nov. 13, Hope Village called Core DC an inexperienced vendor that won the contract unfairly.
“The Bureau failed in both regards — in denying Hope Village a contract because Hope Village does not accept violent sexual offenders, and in making award [sic] to a contractor that ignored the rules,” a redacted copy of the protest read. “The protest must be sustained, and the award undone.”
Core DC didn’t respond to a request for comment. Hope Village chief executive Jeffrey Varone also didn’t return a request for comment about his company’s protest.
Core DC’s parent company’s website says its chief executive, Carlyle I. Holder, is a former warden appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to a company that provides job training for inmates. The website of Carlyle Holder Ministries says he is an author and 27-year veteran of the Bureau of Prisons.
Housing sex offenders has long been controversial in the District, which sends some offenders to a Baltimore facility. Last month, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said she opposed a new Bureau of Prisons requirement that Hope Village accept some sex offenders.
“In the District, we are not willing to accept the risk of housing sex offenders whose victims were children in residential neighborhoods where children congregate,” Norton said in a statement.
Asked whether the new halfway house would accept sex offenders, a Bureau of Prisons spokesman wrote in an email that “the contract requires the contractor accept all inmates for placement.”
Hope Village’s protest said Core DC’s facility would be “steps away” from the National Arboretum, “a wooded area which is visited by 500,000 people every year . . . including presumably thousands of children.” The facility is separated from the arboretum and nearby neighborhoods by U.S. 50 and railroad tracks.
Meanwhile, according to the protest, Hope Village, which is a few hundred feet from a charter school, says it offered a bid that “was found unacceptable for not agreeing to accept violent sexual predators.”
“Core DC will not be able to accept violent sexual predators either — the community and its elected officials simply will not stand for it,” the protest read. “The two offerors faced the same situation regarding placement of offenders — one by dealing directly and openly with the Bureau, and the other by flouting the rules.”
After the location of the Core DC halfway house was announced earlier this month, Norton and D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), who represents the area where the halfway house will open, criticized CORE’s lack of transparency.
Neither McDuffie nor the office of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) responded to requests for comment this week about Core DC’s plans.
Core DC’s bid represents a major change for D.C. residents returning from prison. After four decades in the city, Hope Village seemed poised to win the bid despite criticism from activists who say it offers substandard care and doesn’t offer adequate employment programing or transportation subsidies for residents.
In 2016, the Council for Court Excellence, a nonprofit that seeks improvements to the city’s criminal justice system, faulted the halfway house for insufficient services for residents and violent crime in the area.
“The BOP should not renew Hope Village’s contracts when they expire in 2016 and 2017,” the report read.
The Government Accountability Office must issue a decision on the bid protest within 100 days.