Over 10,000 people every year from DC are incarcerated in prison or jail, or being supervised on probation, parole, or supervised release. More than 68,000 people have a publicly-available arrest or a conviction record — a figure so large, a truly representative DC Council would have at-least two members with records. Research shows that being involved in the justice system leads to higher rates of recidivism, worse health outcomes, and lifelong challenges around housing and employment.
DC faces unique challenges due to the absence of full local control over its justice system, leading to a more severe system of punishment.
There is no halfway house for men in DC. Organizations that help plan for someone’s reentry face challenges getting information on when individuals may return home, making reintegration much more difficult. Then a person faces laws, policies, and practices that prevent them from getting a job and housing, and face one of the most restrictive sets of policies in the country to get rid of their record.
This system of punishment almost exclusively impacts DC’s Black community: 90 percent of people in the DC jail are Black.
Roadmaps have been developed by experts and residents to change this picture. The District Task Force on Jails and Justice surveyed residents, and developed a series of recommendations that over time would bring most people punished under the system home, shrink the system, and provide robust services to help someone return to the community after being incarcerated. As of 2023, only 2 percent of these policies have been enacted or implemented.
Department of Corrections
Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
The National Reentry Network For Returning Citizens