- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The D.C. government has been hit with a third federal lawsuit that says the D.C. Jail was supposed to release an inmate after charges were dropped but instead kept the man incarcerated for weeks.

The suit by former inmate Daniel Simmons is the latest filed in the U.S. District Court against the city over D.C. Jail officials’ keeping inmates incarcerated for too long after a judge has ordered their release.

An attorney for Mr. Simmons said the inmate was jailed on drug-possession charges on Oct. 29, 2005. The U.S. Attorney’s office dropped the charges on Nov. 10, 2005, but Mr. Simmons was not released until Dec. 3, 2005, according to the suit filed Thursday in federal court in the District.

Another pending federal lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, states there are “hundreds, if not thousands” of people detained too long in the jail, court records show.

In addition, a federal judge last year approved a $12 million settlement in a lawsuit by former inmates who accused the jail of holding them too long and conducting illegal strip-searches.

A spokeswoman for the jail could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But, in court records, the District has sought to dismiss another pending lawsuit that also accuses the jail of detaining inmates too long.

“The District has neither a policy or practice of holding inmates past their proper release dates in deliberate indifference to the orders or other authority affecting their release,” the D.C. Office of the Attorney General argued in court papers.

The District also argues that courts have recognized that “complicating factors” affect inmate processing, including arranging transportation and reviewing local and federal databases for outstanding warrants.

In addition, the District disputes that the problems are widespread, saying any delays releasing inmates arise from “individualized administrative delays.”

“Here any delay in release was not the result of municipal policy and practice of deliberate indifference,” the attorney general’s office argued.

However, the lead attorney in the pending case filed by former inmate Carl Barnes said 37 former inmates have filed affidavits describing illegal “over-detentions” lasting as long as three months.

His attorney, William Claiborne, said yesterday that the jail has been improving its release of inmates since the class-action settlement.

“It’s not like it used to be where people were being over-detained for a year at a time, but by no means, have the problems been fixed,” he said.

In Mr. Simmons’ case, his attorney Joan A. Harvill said yesterday that D.C. jail officials gave no explanation to her client for detaining him too long.

The lawsuit seeks more than $1 million in compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees on various counts of negligence and civil rights violations.

According to the suit, the jail housed Mr. Simmons, a pretrial detainee, with a convicted killer.

Mr. Simmons “was subjected to daily threats from the convicted murderer and suffered great fear for his own safety,” court documents state.

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