A group of House Republicans wants answers about District jail conditions for defendants charged in connection to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot following reports of harsh treatment.
Reps. Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Louie Gohmert and Bob Good, who traveled to visit the local District jail on Thursday, said they were denied entry when they requested to see how the facility was being run.
The lawmakers said they went to see conditions firsthand after letters to the facility seeking information went unanswered.
The four said they were turned away after being told they were trespassing.
“Just from what little we saw from the outside, they’re being treated worse there than the bloodthirsty terrorists at one time. It is really outrageous,” Mr. Gohmert, Texas Republican, said at a press conference.
Mrs. Greene, Georgia Republican, said the members came with basic questions about the jail, including inquiries related to visitation hours, what prisoners are eating and what portion of the day inmates are being held in solitary confinement.
Mrs. Greene added that she thinks a national double standard has evolved when it comes to the treatment of incarcerated supporters of former President Donald Trump and the treatment of other Americans arrested in other political protests that have turned violent.
“We suspect there is a two-tier justice system in the United States for Trump supporters that are charged for January 6, and basically catch-and-release for Antifa and BLM rioters,” Mrs. Greene said.
The D.C. Central Detention Facility defended its move to deny the lawmakers entry, when asked by The Washington Times about the decision.
A spokesperson for the facility said the four lawmakers showed unannounced and with an unauthorized camera crew, compromising the “safety and security operations at the [Department of Corrections.]”
“Safety and security related to DOC’s facilities, staff, and residents is a high priority and for that reason, DOC has established procedures and protocols related to visits to its facilities,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “All visitors, which includes family members of residents, attorneys, and public officials, must adhere to the rules and procedures of the DOC.”
Some demonstrators nearby the lawmakers’ press conference held signs referring to the inmates as President Biden’s “political prisoners.”
Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, did not go as far to refer to them as such when asked by The Washington Times, but said he doesn’t view those charged over the riot as insurrectionists.
“To my knowledge, none have been charged for insurrection, so I don’t consider them insurrectionists,” Mr. Massie said on Tuesday.
Dozens of defendants who remain incarcerated in the jail have alleged they are being treated harshly while awaiting trial. Some have claimed they have been put in solitary confinement for several hours a day.
Richard Barnett, the man who was infamously photographed with his feet propped up on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, said he has been frequently placed in solitary confinement.
“I was being punished for speaking up, yes, and even when I just spoke up and showed them the rules in the book, that made it even worse,” the Arkansas Trump supporter told NBC 4 of Washington on Wednesday.
Other inmates have alleged that they had been beaten and subjected to harsh physical treatment, though the Justice Department has denied such allegations.
Rep. Paul Gosar, Arizona Republican, said he had concerns about the rioters being treated differently than other inmates in the facility.
“If they’re guilty, they need to be charged accordingly, but they need to be treated just like any other criminal,” Mr. Gosar told The Washington Times on Tuesday.
Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Dick Durbin of Illinois have also mirrored the concerns raised by Republicans about inmates being subjected to solitary confinement for a lengthy period of time.
The two lawmakers, who have both vociferously condemned the actions of the Jan. 6 rioters, said in April that there should be adequate justifications for holding an inmate in solitary confinement.
Ms. Warren told Politico she was concerned that law enforcement authorities were subjecting prisoners to such treatment in order to get them to cooperate.
“Solitary confinement is a form of punishment that is cruel and psychologically damaging,” Ms. Warren said. “And we’re talking about people who haven’t been convicted of anything yet.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, said while she wasn’t aware of the exact allegations made in regards to the D.C. jail, the issue highlights the broader problem of the country’s criminal justice system.
“It’s not just the conditions of any one jail. Conditions of jails and prisons across the country routinely violate basic human dignity and I would argue human rights standards,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Times on Wednesday. “It’s something that we should absolutely be addressing.”