The Washington City Paper recently published an article regarding oversight of D.C. residents housed in the federal Bureau of Prison’s system. The article, titled D.C.’s Prison Oversight Efforts Have Become a ‘Total Sham’, spotlights the D.C. Corrections Information Council. CIC was created in 1997 as an oversight body at the time D.C. agreed to send local inmates into the Bureau of Prisons system. While the CIC can’t demand changes of federal prisons, it can publish reports to try and draw attention to issues at these facilities.
The article notes that CIC investigators visited USP Thomson prison in Illinois where they heard “horror stories from inmates” there, the inmates being D.C. citizens housed at Thompson. Prisoners complained of being shackled to beds and beaten by guards, or being held in cells the size of a parking space with another inmate for months at a time. The conditions have contributed to five killings and two alleged suicides since 2019, making it the deadliest federal prison in the nation.
The CIC investigation preceded a later well-publicized NPR investigation which exposed many of these conditions, however, CIC hadn’t released its report on Thomson by the time the NPR report came out.
CIC’s current practice is to not publish it’s reports until after the BOP has reviewed and responded to a draft of the report. The policy is based on a belief that publishing reports prior to such reviews could damage their relationship with the BOP and D.C.’s own Department of Corrections. CIC’s current Memo of Understanding with the BOP also appears to require this pre-publication review process.
CIC is in the midst of renegotiating its memorandum of understanding with the federal government that allows for these prison inspections, so there is some hope among advocates for positive change (the existing agreement runs through Sept. 30).