Judge Rules Washington in Contempt Over Inmate Crowding
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A federal judge on Thursday held the District of Columbia in contempt for violating an inmate population ceiling at Lorton Reformatory, and barred the incarceration of additional prisoners at the facility.
The ruling will force criminals convicted in the district into the federal prison system.
Under the contempt ruling, the city will be fined $250 a day for each of the 26 dormitories in Lorton’s Central Facility that exceeds court-ordered limits.
U.S. District Judge June L. Green also imposed an inmate limit of 1,281 at Lorton’s three Occoquan prisons.
There are more than 600 inmates at Occoquan above the court-ordered ceiling. The judge said the city must reduce the number by at least 100 until Aug. 31 and by another 100 every month thereafter until the proper level is reached.
The sprawling Lorton complex, which includes sections from minimum to maximum security, is located in northern Virginia’s Fairfax County.
The U.S. attorney’s office said it would appeal the judge’s ruling.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Royce Lamberth said the federal corrections system is 56 percent overcrowded and officials may consider contracting out to private facilities to ease the crowding.
The judge said the attorney general would be barred from sending new prisoners to Lorton as long as the facilities are considered ″unsuitable and inappropriate.″
In the district, the attorney general oversees the prosecution of all crimes.
But the federal government contends the city has not done enough to add emergency housing for inmates, which the city promised to do as a condition of the government’s acceptance of about 1,600 prisoners in 1985 and 1986.
A written order blocking new inmates from Lorton is expected to be issued Friday, along with an answer to the U.S. attorney’s request that the judge stay her order pending an appeal.
Lamberth said his office will appeal as soon as the written order is issued.