Article written by Nick Mastrangelo and Laura Elizabeth Jenkins
When DC District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered a team to investigate DC Department of Corrections’ neglect of COVID protocol in 2020, she caught the prison breaking its own rules. She issued a temporary restraining order calling for better sanitation and access to medical care and phones. Yet these areas still remain unaddressed.
“Conditions in DOC facilities do not satisfy constitutional standards or this Court’s order,” said Judge Kollar-Kotelly in Banks v. Booth, a class-action lawsuit involving DC prisoners who claimed detainment violated their civil rights.
The court ruled those incarcerated were subjected to harmful health and safety conditions for which prison staff-and the DC government-were liable for.
“Many of the problems identified by the Court in its April 19, 2020 Order, including access to medical care, enforcement of social distancing, understaffing, and sanitation remain seriously deficient and are arguably worse than before the Court’s Order.”
See the detrimental conditions listed below by the court and how they remain unaddressed by DC prison staff a month later.
Court-appointed visitors documented prisoners wearing visibly soiled clothes, receiving only one mask per 5-day period, and having no access to clean water.
“I was scared for my health,” said inmate Anthony Jenkins, in a sworn statement to the court.
Two years later, the testimony of J6 pretrial defendants corroborate many of these findings. Here are the current living conditions they report:
“I sit on a cold damp floor with ants and cockroaches and mice running by.”
“On the 4th day of requesting to see a nurse, you’re separated …”
“RAW SEWAGE has overflowed our unit.”
“It’s been weeks locked inside a cell for 24 hours.”
“Cleaning chemicals [are put] in our meals as retribution.”
“Being locked up in a small moldy cell is sad.”
“White rags TURN BROWN when exposed to the water from our faucet.”
“They brought the wrong stretcher 3 times.”
“Some have COVID-like symptoms but medical personnel have refused to treat them.”
“At least a quarter of your cells have black mold in them”
“They forget to give you lunch”
“I’ve suffered from headaches and nausea on a regular basis from the malnutrition and hunger I’m subjected to.”
Here are more unconstitutional violations of their civil rights:
“Legal visits take 2-3 weeks or more to be scheduled, leaving little time to discuss our defense prepare for trial.
“My right to speak to counsel and aid in my defense is long gone. I can’t even make a simple phone call!”
“HIGHLY SENSITIVE discovery video evidence under attorney/client privilege is watched by employees during our legal calls.”
“PRIVILEGED LEGAL DOCUMENTS have been CONFISCATED and gone missing from cells.”
J6 defendants say the jail staff hide behind COVID protocol. Yet this case-decided during the 2020 lockdowns-states the jail cannot not violate its written protocol by denying daily showers to all defendants (in the general population and solitary confinement.) After the judge’s temporary restraining order, the court called out the prison’s mistake in only allowing defendants to shower every few days. This is the same situation jailed J6 prisoners are facing today.
Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and 13 other Congressman wrote DC Mayor Muriel Bowser concerning these and other violations. At this time, American Gulag’s calls and messages to all of these Congressmen went unanswered.
“We find their treatment over the better part of a year to be sufficient cause for change in supervision,” says Greene, demanding immediate termination of Kathleen Landerkin as Deputy Warden of Operations at the Central Treatment Facility (CTF.)
“The role of Deputy Warden should be filled by a person who exhibits objectivity and neutrality toward those they are tasked with detaining.”
American Gulag will continue monitoring violations of this court order, finding who is responsible, and informing the public of the implications this has on individual rights and safety.