The Hope Village complex that serves as a halfway house for men has received a lot of publicity lately, and not all of it positive.
However, Phinis Jones, a Ward 8 entrepreneur who has worked with Hope Village for over three decades, says that the negative public discourse over his project lacks truthfulness.
“Returning citizens need Hope Village,” Jones said. “They need a place to return home.”
Hope Village has been around for decades and has its operations near the Woodland Terrace Housing Complex. On the national level, it has a solid reputation with its accreditation by the American Correctional Association and has housed former U.S. Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell as a resident. Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. also almost landed there before going to a halfway house in Baltimore.
Jones noted that in the District of Columbia, there used to be seven halfway houses for men but only Hope Village now remains.
“Hope Village is the largest private employer in Ward 8,” Jones said.
Critics have derided it as a place where returning citizens are treated badly by the staff and have labeled it “Hopeless Village.” Jones, in an interview with the media, repeatedly said that Hope Village abides steadfastly by the regulations issues by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
One issue of contention is Hope Village residents possibly being sent back to prison without due process of law. Jones makes it clear that Hope Village follows bureau regulations.
“If a Hope Village resident signs out to go to a job interview or job hunting, they must indicate the time they will come back,” he said. “If they aren’t back by the stated time, they have four hours to make contact with Hope Village. If they do not, we contact [the bureau] and they take it from there. Those are BOP rules, not Hope Village’s.”
The staff of Hope Village has a combined 803 years of experience, Jones said, “so they know what they are doing.”
To assist the men to integrate back into society, Hope Village offers GED and life skills classes as well as instruction on how to write resumes and how to present themselves during job interviews.
John Patillo, who teaches courses in customer service, resume writing and money management at Hope Village, said he enjoys the experience.
“The students are real attentive and eager to learn,” Patillo said. “They seem intimidated at first because of the new technology and being introduced to the world of work, but they really like what we are offering.”
The men live in apartment-style housing that could consist of up to six per suite. The men can have their clothes laundered free of charge and they eat in a dining hall during shifts.
Hope Village has appealed a decision by the BOP to contract CORE DC to run a men’s halfway house in Northeast. Jones said Hope Village lost out on the latest round of contracts because it refused to take in predatory sex offenders.
“We did not want to do that because there are a number of children and a charter school close by,” he said. “We also don’t take in arsonists.”
In essence, CORE DC got the contract because they agreed to take in those that Hope Village didn’t want, Jones said.
Jones said he possesses 61 letters of support for Hope Village to keep the contract, including former Ward 8 D.C. Council members LaRuby May, Sandy Allen and Eydie Whittington. He said the late Marion Barry, who represented Ward 8 on the council at the time of his 2014 death, also supported the facility.
Plus, letters from 23 returning citizens, the 8D advisory neighborhood commission and the Fort Stanton and Congress Heights civic association, are on file with Jones as Hope Village supporters.
There have been some complaints that Hope Village residents cannot worship where they desire, but Jones again cites BOP regulations.
“The BOP says that residents may go to the nearest church of their faith,” he said.
For example, he said African Methodist Episcopalians can attend Allen Chapel AME that sits one block away, Baptist can go to nearby Emanuel Baptist Church, non-denominational residents can go to Faith Tabernacle and a mosque on Branch Avenue.
Residents generally stay at Hope Village for three months and then go home. Before residents enroll there, residents attend an orientation and are issued a handbook detailing the rules.
Mary Cuthbert, a former Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner, said Hope Village is a good place for D.C. inmates to come home to.
“Most of our inmates have been gone so long, they need to get acclimated back where they come from,” Cuthbert said. “Most of them come from Southeast and if they were from Northwest, they wouldn’t recognize their old neighborhoods [because of gentrification]. If there are problems at Hope Village, they should be corrected.”
Antoine Jones, the subject of a notable Supreme Court case dealing with the Fourth Amendment and its relationship with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, stayed in Hope Village after incarceration and said he had a productive experience there.
“At Hope Village, you learn life skills and get referred to jobs,” Jones said. “Hope Village provided me good food, shelter, clothes, Social Security assistance, anything that was needed. The worse thing that can happen is that Hope Village closes down. If you do what you are supposed to do, you will be OK.”