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The city has agreed to cap the population of the D.C. Jail, finally complying with the terms of a 2003 law passed by the D.C. Council and settling a two-year old lawsuit.
Phil Fornaci, who chairs the D.C. Prisoners Project, which helped wage the lawsuit on behalf of a group of jail inmates, says the settlement agreement will be entered on Friday. The population will be capped at 2,164, which represents the high end of a permissible range determined by a consultant hired by the city in 2004.
Last week, the city had floated setting a cap of over 3,000, which was well above the consultant’s figures and drew a stiff rebuke from Superior Court Judge Melvin R. Wright last Friday.
In Saturday’s Washington Post, Peter Nickles, general counsel for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, announced that the city was planning to appeal Wright’s decision to the D.C. Court of Appeals. The city had previously argued that the judge had no authority to order the executive branch to comply with the council’s legislation.
Nickles says the city decided an appeal was not worth the time or expense. “I believe the judge is always right,” he says. “It is not a good use of taxpayers’ money to litigate forever after the court has ruled.”
One part of the settlement that was important to the city, Nickles says, was that it include a “provision of exigent circumstances,” where the cap could be temporarily lifted in the case of a mass-arrest anomaly.
Without such a provision, he says, “you invite the possibility of violating a court order, which we don’t do.”
More on this issue in tomorrow’s Loose Lips column.