Activists Concerned About Inmate Care at DC Halfway House During Pandemic

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Some D.C. community organizers are collecting supplies for the inmates inside one of the nation’s largest halfway houses amid growing calls for action to protect the men inside from contracting the coronavirus and spreading it once they leave.

Activists and friends of inmates inside Hope Village on Langston Place SE say people are crowded too close together inside and sanitary supplies are scarce.

Hundreds of inmates are inside the complex of old brick buildings, which is overseen by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and operated by a contractor.

D.C. Council member Trayon White said he’s learned two inmates are being quarantined, though it’s uncertain if they have symptoms of the virus or are ill with other ailments. White said they are not getting basic supplies.

“I’ve seen four ambulances here in the past hour,” White said. “So they told us we could bring supplies here. We had people who pulled up this morning with hundreds of bottles of water, toiletries.”

At least 19 inmates and 19 staffers at federal prisons nationwide have tested positive for COVID-19. Hope Village said its waiting on test results for one inmate.

Hope Village said all inmates are provided hot water and soap but not hand sanitizer because it’s now difficult to buy. No visitors are allowed, and the men are no longer working their day jobs and their movement is limited.  

Hope Village acknowledged the men still live in dorm-style rooms, sharing spaces.

Emily Gunston of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, who advocates on behalf of D.C. inmates, said inmates tell her there is no social distancing at the halfway house.

“They’re sharing bathrooms, they’re sharing living space, they don’t have good access to cleaning supplies,” she said.

Hope Village said it has opened a new building to allow for more social distancing.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton wants the Bureau of Prisons to make an unscheduled visit to the halfway house.

The Bureau of Prisons has stopped visitation at halfway houses and federal prisons nationwide and says it is testing inmates before release from custody. It said it has received no evidence residents at Hope Village have not been provided essential items like toiletries and food.

Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.

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