During the presentation, John Hill, deputy chief of the Superior Court division for the U.S. attorney’s office, argued that the District had one of the lowest incarceration rates in the nation and thereby did not need aggressive criminal justice revisions.
In his presentation, Hill cited 2016 figures from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. Individuals at the meeting who support the amendment immediately challenged Hill and said his figures were incorrect.
Hill issued a correction over the weekend via Twitter. He said he verified with the bureau that the statistics he used only counted individuals in the D.C. jail. The figures, however, did not account for the thousands of inmates in federal prisons around the nation who committed crimes in the District. Because the District does not have a prison, convicted individuals are sent to federal institutions throughout the United States.
In his response, Hill wrote the statistics he used “significantly undercount the total number of D.C. residents incarcerated either in a local or federal facility. We apologize for this mistake.”
Supporters of the amendment have argued that the District has among the highest incarceration rates in the country.
Attendees also noted another error that was made at the meeting. When someone asked why federal prosecutors were against the District amendment but supported a sentence reduction for ’80s drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III, Wendy Pohlhaus, executive assistant U.S. attorney for external affairs, responded that her office was not seeking a sentence reduction. “That was Karl Racine.”
Karl A. Racine, the District’s attorney general, has not issued an opinion on whether Edmond’s life-without-parole sentence should be reduced. On Friday, Pohlhaus’s office asked a federal judge to reduce Edmond’s sentence to 40 years.
“Why are they getting basic facts wrong?” Nazgol Ghandnoosh, 39, asked after Hill issued his correction.
The D.C. Council is expected to vote on the amendment this fall.
Jessie K. Liu, U.S. attorney for the District, spoke briefly at Thursday’s meeting. In August, her office distributed a news release that suggested more than 500 inmates who were convicted of violent crimes would be eligible for early release under the amendment.
Supporters of the bill said Liu’s position was misleading because it left out how a D.C. Superior Court judge had to review each inmate’s application, and how there were more than a dozen criteria that must be met other than being between 18 and 24 at the time of their crime.
“They have been putting out misleading information and these are just some of the most recent examples,” said Ghandnoosh, senior research analyst at the Sentencing Project.