In his letter to the editor (The Mail, 6/25), D.C. Department of Corrections Director Odie Washington displays his unusual talent for confusing the facts in attacking the article “Eating Disorder” (6/4) about violence at the D.C. Jail. Given that the institution has seen at least two murders, dozens of near-fatal assaults, and a shooting inside the cellblock in the last 18 months, his claim that the jail is a “safe, secure, humane, and constitutional facility” is unsupportable.

The article actually understated the level of violence at the jail. The recently completed Bogard/Pulitzer consultant report cited by Washington in his letter notes that from 2002 to 2003 the number of fights and assaults in the jail actually doubled. The cause of this explosion in violence is no mystery; it is specifically cited by the consultant: a grossly overcrowded facility with inadequate staffing.

Rather than placing the blame on a judicial system that incarcerates far too many people and a political establishment that refuses to support meaningful alternatives, Washington attacks “perpetrators” in the jail for the spike in violence. When people are treated worse than animals, they often descend to the level of their treatment. The D.C. Jail has become a training ground for violent behavior, jeopardizing the safety of all D.C. residents. Washington’s comments are both unproductive in addressing the problems at hand and an insult to the people of the District. We deserve better.

Executive Director

D.C. Prisoners’ Legal Services Project