- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2018


It has been written in stone since 1997 that the federal government has control of and authority over D.C.’s felons — in prison and on parole.

That means if someone is convicted of a felony in the District, the federal government decides where they will be imprisoned and what rules and laws that felon must comply with if they are released.

The D.C. government used to be in charge of such decisions.

However, that changed with the 1997 D.C. Revitalization Act, which gave the powers to the feds because the D.C. government was financially broke and under reconstruction.

Also, the city’s prison for federal felons, Lorton Reformatory in Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County, was shuttered.

Lorton inmates were shipped out around the country forthwith.

It’s fair to say that many Americans, if not most Americans, are unaware of those facts.

Now, after more than two decades, some prisoner-rights advocates want to flip the script.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, our nation’s longest arm of the law, could be asked to answer a few interesting questions within the next couple months.

Will the federal government continue wielding authority of D.C. prisoners, or will it return that control and authority to D.C. government?

What are the pros and cons?

It’s not a pressing issue at this very moment. However, it is nonetheless important for the Sessions Justice Department, the U.S. Parole Commission and the D.C. government’s public-policy bean counters to know of his intentions.

Today, there are an estimated 6,700 federal D.C. prisoners, and the majority, 4,700, are being held by the federal Bureau of Prisons in various states.

Prisoners being considered for parole are judged by the U.S. Parole Commission. D.C. felons who are paroled are under direct supervision of what’s colloquially called simply CSOSA, the federal agency officially known as the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.

One of the arguments that prisoner-rights advocates make is that where the crime occurred and where the paroled criminal returns are essentially under the jurisdiction of the states.

To that end, advocates are laying out a road map for D.C. to regain authority of its parolees by rescinding the Revitalization Act and restoring the D.C. Board of Parole, among other things.

The Sessions Justice Department routinely funds needs for the D.C. portion of imprisonment, and as things currently stand, a funding decision for the next five years will be made this fall, as usual.

Also, as usual, advocates are going to complain about something else, too, and that is the “burden” placed upon inmates’ loved ones who have to trek long and short distances to visit the incarcerated.

That shouldn’t be a concern for Mr. Sessions, however.

The attorney general’s job is to consider the law and order of the matter, and whether the federal government and the D.C. government will benefit from a legislative reversal, which is why deliberations are in order but not uninformed decision-making. States’ constitutional rights likely aren’t an issue.

Oh, and there’s something else worth reckoning with: D.C. is a sanctuary city — and that fact alone puts a lump in John Law’s throat.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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