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Need for Local Control of DC Parole Board

Friday, December 8, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Elinor Hart
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WASHINGTON – The responsibility for granting parole to Washington prisoners should be returned to the D.C. government. That’s the message from the Nov. 30 program, “Moving toward Local Control of DC’s Criminal Justice System,” at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law. The forum was sponsored by UDC Law and the DC Statehood Coalition.

Moderator Tammy Seltzer, '96, who directs University Legal Services’ DC Jail and Prison Advocacy Project, reminded the audience that, when Congress passed Revitalization in Act in 1997, the city gave up control of its criminal justice system in return for financial solvency. As Avis Buchanan, Director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia pointed out, while it was difficult to anticipate the impact of federalizing our criminal system, we have had 20 years to figure it out.

According to three of the panelists who are formerly incarcerated residents and leaders in the reentry community, prisoners in the district have paid and are paying a steep price for a federalized criminal justice system. The U.S. Parole Commission forced Louis Sawyer, Chair of the DC Reentry Task Force, and Eric Weaver, Chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Returning Citizens to remain in prison the first time they applied for parole, the fate of the majority of Washington’s prisoners before the Parole Commission.

Lashonia Thompson-El, Executive Director of The W.I.R.E. (Women Involved in Reentry Efforts) discussed the tragic situation of older male prisoners who, even though they were given 20-year sentences, have been in prison for 40 years.

The focus of the forum was on parole, only one part of D.C.’s criminal justice system. Johnny Barnes, former executive director of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital and a statehood advocate, reminded everyone that the District of Columbia will not be able to fully control the entire system until it becomes the 51st state.

Read more on the D.C. Reentry Task Force in this Washington Post op-ed by Sawyer from Feb. 17, 2016.

Watch a video of the forum above or on Youtube

Lashonia Thompson-El, Eric Weaver, Avis Buchanan, Tammy Seltzer
Panelists, from left: Lashonia Thompson-El, Eric Weaver, Avis Buchanan, and Tammy Seltzer

Avis Buchanan and Louis Sawyer
Avis Buchanan and Louis Sawyer

Johnny Barnes
Johnny Barnes


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