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Last week, as part of our average day coverage, Mike DeBonis reported that Councilmember Phil Mendelson was “appalled” at AG Peter Nickles‘ interest in rescinding a law that requires the D.C. Jail to release inmates before 10 p.m.
Mendo has every reason to be appalled. As chair of the Judiciary Committee, he knows all too well the troubles that the D.C. Jail has had in releasing inmates on time. There have been two class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of inmates not released on time. These are not inmates who were released a few hours late. We’re talking days late. The problems stemmed from the jail’s inadequate records office. The legislation was an attempt to hold the Jail accountable and protect inmates who were released in the early morning hours in their jumpsuits.
Last Friday, I met up with Phil Fornaci, the executive director of the DC Prisoners’ Legal Services Project. He too was appalled. The Nickles move is so ridiculous that we didn’t spend too much time on it. But he did pass along a letter he wrote to the Examiner after the paper ran a lame story on Nickles’ whining.
Fornaci thought the paper hadn’t run his letter on the issue. So we have an exclusive! Here’s what he had to say he response to Nickles’ move to step over the D.C. Jail reg:
“DC Attorney General Peter Nickles makes several false statements in his strong-armed attempt to force the release of DC Jail prisoners between 10 pm and 6 am. Prisoners are held after 10 pm not because the paperwork ‘takes a while to catch up’ after a Judge orders a release but because the Jail cannot keep up. It is absolutely false to claim that the City has paid ‘millions’ as a result of this policy. Hundreds of people have had their release delayed because the Jail could not process them on time or committed other errors. These are the people to whom the District has paid settlements, people who were released not just a few hours after their scheduled release but days, weeks, and even years later. It is unfortunate that Mr. Nickles is resorting to bluster and outright falsehoods to force policy changes he does not like.”