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D.C. Halfway House in Contractual Battle Gets Another Blow

A D.C.-based halfway house — already under scrutiny as it fights to renew its contract — has hit yet another major hurdle. A report released after an investigation into the halfway house, called Hope Village, shows that the facility is responsible for “nearly 10 percent of all halfway house escapes.”

An investigation by a News4 I-Team, posted on NBCWashington.com, has revealed that the facility, which has been contracted by D.C. government for the past 13 years to prepare federal inmates for life outside of prison, is enmeshed a variety of problems.

A number of inmates escaped and other residents were found to be illegally leaving the facility or not returning on time. In addition, a significant number of the residents have ended up being re-arrested and charged with additional major crimes – including first degree murder.

Members of the News4 I-Team reportedly scrutinized federal prison records which indicate that nationally there were 1,100 escapes or untimely returns in recent years. Of those, Hope Village is responsible for 10 percent, approximately (110), despite the fact that the facility only holds “3 percent of the federal halfway house population.”

Revelations from the May 14 news report is yet another body blow to the halfway house provider, which has been entangled in a fight to maintain the contract since the Bureau of Prisons awarded a five-year contract late last year to another group, CORE. Officials at Hope Village filed an appeal after the rejection, asking the Government Accountability Office to reconsider the decision, setting off a war between the two agencies.

The struggle was then complicated by a lawsuit filed by a group of citizens complaining about D.C. zoning regulations for halfway houses – a lawsuit that was subsequently dropped – but one that drew significant news coverage and greater attention to the issue. Hope Village continues to compete in the interim for its contract, which officials say could end for them in October.

The NBC report says Hope Village’s numbers improved slightly last year. But agency officials’ desire to hold onto its contract may prove futile since the NBC report revealed that at least two inmates who allegedly escaped or failed to return on time were ultimately charged with murder.  In one case, according to reports, 23-year-old Kerrice “Kay-Kay” Lewis was shot multiple times, stuffed into the trunk of her car and reportedly burned alive. NBC said one of the three men arrested following the murder was Marcel Vines, 22, then a resident at Hope Village who had not returned on time.

According to NBC, Hope Village officials declined comment for their report, but issued a statement saying the agency “takes public safety and the accountability of our returning citizens seriously” by tracking inmates and verifying their locations when they do not return on time.

Still, with the level of scrutiny and the battle to hold onto the contract, this latest setback may prove fatal.

According to NBC, Jessie Liu, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and whose prosecutions have led to the convictions of more than 30 inmates on escape charges since January 2018, weighed in saying of the number of escape cases: “It is concerning.”

The investigative report is just the latest challenge for Hope Village. In another development, at least one group has questioned whether the halfway house is delivering its clients the rehabilitative support that they need to transition to society after lengthy prison sentences.

The group, Corrections Information Council, penned a blistering report a few years back saying Hope Village had made it difficult for former inmates to find work. It cited a number of seemingly punitive policies against the formerly incarcerated individuals, including making it difficult for them to go online at the halfway house — thereby presumably depriving these individuals of an important tool to plug back successfully into society and find jobs.

Such reports could not come at a worse time for Hope Village, an organization that has reportedly received at least $125 million in federal payments since it became a contracting entity to provide transitional services to former inmates.

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