Two residents at the Hope Village halfway house in D.C. have died in the past three days, officials said Sunday. Their deaths are not related to COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus, the Bureau of Prisons says.
According to a statement from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the first death at Hope Village was not related to the novel coronavirus. The bureau later reported the second person did not die from COVID-19.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday said it's not clear what happened to the two residents, who haven't been publicly identified.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton had called for the prison bureau to release the inmates.
“Residents should be immediately released whenever possible and appropriate so that they can go home and be safe from the coronavirus, as opposed to being held in close proximity to others in an environment where the virus could easily be transmitted," Norton said in a release Sunday night.
"Almost all of these residents are on their way out of the criminal justice system as it is, most of them having already served most of their sentences in BOP or the D.C. jail. Thus, releasing them a little earlier for their protection and for the protection of the staff at Hope Village would be in the best interest of all concerned,” she said.
A lawsuit was filed in federal court in D.C. last week on behalf of Hope Village, the largest halfway house in America.
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The inmates are asking for their release or a change to operations inside amid fears about the coronavirus.
The suit says there’s no social distancing inside the facility on Langston Place SE.
A News4 I-Team report revealed concerns there’s not enough sanitary supplies inside for the hundreds who live there.
Hope Village said it has provided soap and hot water but really can’t change the dormitory-style living space.
Attorneys for the inmates said the residents are required to share bedrooms and bathrooms.
“Congregate settings are inconsistent with infection control, and we’re very concerned about folks in the halfway house’s safety given this situation,” said Emily Gunston of Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. “Similarly, there are people who can be safely be released home. These are people that are coming and going from the halfway house everyday anyhow. There’s not a danger to the community to having these people go back to their homes, and it will protect them and all of us.”
“Hope Village is overseen by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and operated by a local contractor. Nationwide, the Bureau of Prisons made some sweeping changes this week, stopping all movement of inmates for two weeks.
Hope Village says it no longer allows inmates to come and go from work assignments each day. They are all staying on-site in Southeast.
Hope Village said it opened another building to help with social distancing.