Community

Future of Returning Citizens’ Reentry in Question

If the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) doesn’t approve a contract for a new local residential reentry center before the end of the month, federal inmates from D.C. would most likely have to serve out the remainder of their sentences as far away as Baltimore.

Despite some thoughts to the contrary, returning-citizens advocate Ron Moten said such a scenario spells out disaster for people returning home from prison and their families. Since the beginning of the year, he and others have rallied up support for a new facility on New York Avenue in Northeast.

“It’s not that we wouldn’t want to see things get better, but Hope Village isn’t acknowledging that they have a problem,” said Moten, owner of Check-It Enterprises in Southeast, as he touched on the drug abuse, assaults, and denial of resources he said returning citizens often endured at the Southeast-based halfway house and initial point of return for inmates leaving the federal prison system for decades.

In November, after a series of complaints, BOP gave a 5-year, $60 million contract to Core DC LLC for the facilitation of a District-based residential reentry center with more than 110 beds for male and female returning citizens.

That center, located at 3400 New York Avenue in Northeast, had been scheduled to open on March 1. However, the Government Accountability Office, out of a concern that Core hadn’t secured permission to use the property, recommended that BOP revise its requirements for contractors or restart the bidding process.

In the interim, BOP chose to extend Hope Village’s contract until April 30. Moten, the Rev. Graylan Hagler, and others had since been in a race against time to convince relevant parties of Core’s redeeming qualities.

“Core is owned by people of color who are culturally competent,” Moten said. “It’s not just about money. They understand you need programs of quality that help people not go back to prison. Hope Village isn’t safe. People are getting robbed. People are selling and doing drugs in the facility. It’s not an option.”

On Wednesday, Moten and members of the returning citizens and clergy community hosted a meeting at Bethesda Baptist Church in Northeast, not only to address the ongoing contractual conflict, but also tackle what he described as a reentry crisis exacerbated by prejudice against returning citizens.

Since February, three prior town halls had taken place in parts of Ward 5 and 8 to counter some residents’ efforts to stop the new residential reentry center from opening in their neighborhood.

In December, about the time that Douglas Development, the owner of 3400 New York Avenue Northeast, announced that it wouldn’t move forward with the residential reentry center, Attorney Donald Temple filled a lawsuit against the District alleging that neither Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C), Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D), or Ward 5 residents had been notified about BOP’s contract with Core.

McDuffie, who often touts his record of championing returning citizens’ causes, expressed his apprehension about opening a residential reentry center at 3400 New York Avenue NE without community support.

Two letters he sent FOP acting Director Hugh J. Hurwitz in November said that Core damaged any potential for a congenial relationship when representatives didn’t reach out to him or Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Jacqueline Manning (5C04).

“The success of any residential reentry center depends largely on the provision of adequate government resources as well as support from the surrounding community, which itself begins with meaningful community engagement,” McDuffie said.

“Core DC’s efforts certainly fell short in this regard. I support having a quality, well-resourced residential reentry center located in the District and remain optimistic that a Bureau of Prisons contractor will identify a suitable site, provided the community is engaged in a meaningful way from the beginning,” he added.

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