DC strikes deal to improve conditions at city's main jail

FILE - Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a news conference March 15, 2021, in Washington. The Washington, D.C., government has struck a deal with the U.S. Marshals Service to improve the situation at the central D.C. Jail, after the facility became a source of criticism and controversy that included a judge ordering 400 federal prisoners transferred out due to substandard conditions. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) (Andrew Harnik, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – The Washington, D.C., government has struck a deal with the U.S. Marshals Service to improve the situation at the city's main jail after it came under criticism and the Justice Department announced that 400 federal prisoners would be transferred out because of substandard conditions.

Conditions at the jail had long been a point of criticism for local activists. The issue took on a national political dimension in recent months because many defendants from the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection were being held there.

Wednesday's announcement said the city Department of Corrections and the federal Marshals Service “will collaboratively assess conditions at the (Central Detention Facility) and develop a plan to address concerns.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement, "We all agree: everyone who is in our jail or under our supervised care should be treated humanely and have safe conditions.”

Bowser added that she welcomed the attention and resources to “address any deficiencies" at D.C. facilities.

Supporters of several Jan. 6 defendants filed suit, alleging the defendants' civil rights were being abused at the jail. One of those cases led to a surprise Marshals Service inspection last month, which found unsanitary and abusive conditions, according to a damning report by Lamont J. Ruffin, the acting marshal for U.S. District Court in Washington.

A federal judge later found both the jail's warden and the director of the corrections department in contempt of court. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth had summoned the jail officials to court in the case of Christopher Worrell, a member of the Proud Boys who has been charged in the Jan. 6 attack, who was delayed medical care for a broken wrist.

The Justice Department announced plans to transfer the 400 federal prisoners from among a total population of about 1,500, to another facility in Pennsylvania. However, none of the Jan. 6 defendants was set to be part of that transfer.

The federal prisoner transfer was supposed to begin this week. Wednesday's announcement is not expected to change those plans.