Wednesday, May 11, 2005

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday he will sign the city’s $7 billion budget request, but vowed to restore his funding increase for the Department of Corrections that was cut by the D.C. Council.

Mr. Williams said the request for the money will include a detailed analysis of the consequences of cutting $4 million from his proposed increase.

“I am going to keep you posted on what are going to be the real impacts,” said Mr. Williams, a Democrat.

Mr. Williams wanted to increase department funding from $121 million this year to $142 million in fiscal 2006 — to bolster the number of D.C. Jail employees from 933 to 950.

However, the 13-member council Tuesday approved an increase to $138 million.

Edward D. Reiskin, the city’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said the council budget could result in job cuts instead of additional hires when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

“The budget is based on staffing analysis that was completed for the number of inmates, the configuration of the facility and the programs and services that we are required to offer,” he said.

Mr. Reiskin said he and correction department’s interim Director S. Elwood York Jr. are working together to find where to make cuts.

Mr. York said he is “deeply concerned” about the effect the cuts will have on inmates, staff and residents.

He also said underfunding could result in the department failing to comply with the Jail Improvement Act of 2003, particularly not being able to fully prepare for the American Correctional Association accreditation.

“We will not be able to manage our population-to-staff ratio safely and securely,” Mr. York said.

The department oversees the city jail, 121 beds in halfway houses across the city and a jail treatment facility, which is contracted out to the Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America.

The city sends its most-violent offenders to the federal government until they can be assigned to prisons around the country.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and chairman of the council’s Judiciary Committee, wanted to reduce Mr. Williams’ request by $6 million, to $136.7 million.

“The Washington Monument is not going to fall if this 18 percent growth is pared back to 16 percent,” he said.

Mr. Mendelson said only $3 million of the cuts are to personnel and that the department could get another $1 million if the city receives additional revenue.

“Which means [the department] has to show need,” he said.

The jail has had numerous problems during the mid-90s, including complaints about living conditions and escapes.

In May 2001, the warden of the D.C. Jail and three corrections officers were fired for conducting strip-searches of touring students from Evans Middle School in Northeast.

In 2002, two inmates were stabbed to death at the jail in less than a week.

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