Citing the need to reduce recidivism, improve public safety, and bring equity to our criminal justice system, Councilmember Robert White called for new approaches to detention, starting with the construction of a new DC Jail with facilities that promote education, workforce training, reentry, and rehabilitation programs.
The DC Jail has a long history of poor conditions, including excessive use of force, improper food storage and safety, inadequate education, and deteriorating conditions that have gotten worse as the facility has aged. A new facility would help reduce recidivism and lower crime. White also noted that the District Task Force on Jails & Justice released their report on criminal justice in the District and recommended not only a new correctional facility, but 80 other recommendations that should be given consideration.
“Reforming the justice system and our approach to incarceration is critical in our fight for racial equity and public safety,” said White. “For a long time, I have said that we must have a two-pronged approach when it comes to safe streets and neighborhoods. That includes both law enforcement and community-based approaches to public safety. Black residents make up 47% of the District’s population, but represent the vast majority of people arrested and jailed. These disparities are a symptom of a wide range of racist policies, the result of which is greater harm and trauma in Black communities.”
In addition to a new facility, White also called on the Mayor to fund additional criminal justice reforms and public safety measures, including funding to expand training and increase pay and benefits for violence interrupters to ensure they have adequate resources and support.
To further reduce crime in the District, White also called for more funding for homegrown community-based organizations that develop relationships and connections with young people. He also asked for additional funds for housing vouchers dedicated to returning citizens.
Additional Budget Requests
To further increase equity in the District, While also called for other bold investments, such as $70 million for rental assistance to provide immediate assistance for residents still experiencing difficulties paying rent due to pandemic related hardships, $2.4 million in additional funds to support behavioral health in our schools, funding for a housing specialist in the Office of LGBTQ Affairs to manage housing vouchers reserved for LGBTQ residents, and $160 million for excluded workers who did not have access to traditional government supports during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued recovery.
“We must weave equity into every aspect of our government because it affects people’s everyday lives, from access to housing and jobs to the provision of government services,” said White. “Prioritizing investments in housing, education, workforce training, support for LGBTQ communities, and the justice system will drive equity in the District.”White noted that according to the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, the District government is expected to bring in close to $150 million in additional revenue this year alone, underscoring the District’s strong financial position. Additionally, the out-year forecast for Fiscal Year 2022 – 2025 has also been revised upward by a total of approximately $454.2 million.
“The District is in good financial health and the Fiscal Year 2023 budget is an opportunity to capitalize on the District’s wealth to ensure that Black communities and other communities of color have access to city services, safe neighborhoods, job opportunities, and good schools,” said White. “I look forward to working with the Mayor on these important priorities.”