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On January 13, Darrell C. Lee II was stabbed multiple times inside his D.C. Jail cell. The door to Lee’s cell was apparently broken; his door could not close. After taking a shower, Lee returned to his cell, and was then allegedly jumped by several inmates.
The inmates reportedly used a black knife, stabbing Lee multiple times in the left arm, right arm, thigh, back shoulder, stomach, and left side of his back. He was stabbed perhaps as many as nine times. Lee’s injuries required two hospital visits and surgery. He may not have total use of his left hand.
Department of Corrections officials refuse to provide any details regarding this incident. Nor would they provide much in the way of a comment. All the information related to Lee’s stabbing came from sources familiar with the case.
The Department of Corrections Spokesperson Sylvia Lane refused comment regarding this incident, writing via e-mail: “Please be advised that this is an open and active investigation—additional details cannot be provided at this time. Further, disclosure of the medical information you are requesting would violate HIPAA.”
John Rosser, the officers’ union vice president, says Lee’s stabbing sounds vaguely familiar. “I think I remember a stabbing around that time,” Rosser says. “I’m not sure of the particulars because of other incidents. There might have been fights. The inmates are constantly sabotaging the cell doors.”
This incident follows another stabbing in November at the jail. It also highlights the still on-going issues with cell doors. Says one officer after this latest stabbing: “You cannot lock the inmate in the cell. When an officer is going down making a count…inmates can pop out at any time…. On midnights, everything is supposed to be on lockdown. It’s like day time in there. Two o’clock in the morning, you’ll have everybody out.”
Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who chairs the Judiciary Committee which has oversight over the D.C. Jail, sent a letter in October to DOC Director Devon Brown addressing a possible uptick in violence inside the facility. In his letter dated October 15, Mendelson wrote:
“It has been brought to my attention that recently there has been an increase in incidents of violence at the D.C. Jail, including a fatality. Please provide an accounting of all such incidents since August 1, 2009. The accounting should include the date, time, and location of each incident, as well as an explanation of the incident and the status of the victim. Please provide this information no later than close of business October 19, 2009.”
Mendelson says he has yet to get any response from Brown.
Lane insists that all the cell doors have been repaired in the jail’s three maximum security housing units totaling 320 cells. She added in a statement to City Desk: “The comprehensive cell door and lock replacement project is set to begin in May of 2010—this will involve the replacement of all cell doors and locks in the facility.”
Rosser calls the current cell-door repair operation ineffectual: “You can’t fix something old. You can band-aid it. Like an aging person, it will break again. This belief that one officer can stand there and ensure that the door doesn’t break is ridiculous.”
The high-tech video cameras inside the jail surely captured the stabbing. Have Brown or Mendelson requested to view the jail’s security tapes? These tapes should be required viewing at the next oversight hearing.
Lee is awaiting trial for the shooting death of Ashton Hunter. He has been charged with first degree murder while armed.