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Yesterday, Washington City Paper’s Mike DeBonis tracked the latest turn in the war between Councilmember Phil Mendelson and AG Peter Nickles over the D.C. Jail’s 10 p.m. inmate release deadline. Nickles doesn’t like the law and wants it repealed. Mendo is still probably “appalled” at the request.

Nickles argues that the law is too costly. Advocates say that the law is put in place to curb over-detentions at the D.C. Jail and prevent inmates from being dumped in the middle of the night. Yesterday, Nickles sent a letter to Mendo pressing his case.

I was charmed by this particular section:

“DOC reports that the frequency of over-detentions has been reduced in the last year by approximately 40%,” Nickles writes. “Since early 2007, DOC has reduced the number of over-detentions from as high as 45 per month to as low as eight per month in 2008. DOC has spent approximately five years working to improve its release proceedures…”

It’s interesting that for all of the DOC’s work, there are still inmates who are being over-detained. It’s still amazing to me that the District can’t seem to get this right.

In 2005, the District settled one class-action lawsuit over the issue for $12 million. That case had been filed in 2002. In the spring of 2007, a second class-action lawsuit was filed after more inmates claimed they were over-detained. I reported then on the lawsuit and the federal court judge’s exasperation at the city:

“U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth certified another class-action lawsuit concerning the D.C. Jail’s alleged inability to release inmates on time. In his ruling, Lamberth reflected on the déjà vu: ‘This is a case in which history insists on repeating itself. The subject matter is virtually identical to a prior case before this Court, the arguments are the same, even the same procedural defaults have been made. If past is prologue, then the result here must be predictable.’

The District’s lawyers, Lamberth wrote, continue to counter the former inmates’ claims ‘with the excuse that some delays are inevitable due to administrative needs.’ Delays of a day or two, they claim, are ‘per se reasonable.’

Lamberth slapped down that stance, writing that ‘the great weight of precedent suggests that release must occur within a matter of hours.'”

Before the District starts messing with established laws governing the D.C. Jail, it may want to actually fix the D.C. Jail. Ane one last thing, Nickles writes that the DOC has been working on fixing the over-detention issue for the past five years. He’s wrong.

The DOC has been working on fixing this issue for well over a decade. Actually, it’s closer to 20 years.