FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS Beginning with the next contract-holder, the Bureau of Prisons’ residential re-entry management center must accept all high-risk prisoners.

Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Hugh Hurwitz mandated that the residential re-entry management center that wins the next five-year contract from the BOP will be required to accept all high-risk prisoners, according to an Oct. 11 news release.

The BOP addresses all issues related to the federal and Washington, D.C. prison systems, according to the BOP’s website. Because the federal government functions as a state government for the District, the BOP implemented its new policy without the D.C. Council voting on the issue. BOP contracts residential re-entry management program centers, also known as halfway houses, to provide support and housing for inmates close to being released.

The BOP is looking to replace or renew its current contract with Hope Village, the halfway house currently holding the five-year contract, according to the Oct. 11 news release. Fifty percent of inmates who return to Washington, D.C. are re-incarcerated within three years of release, according to The Washington Post.

The new contract received immediate backlash from Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who condemned the policy in a Oct. 11 news release on her website. Norton expressed concern that inmates accused of harming children could be settled close to places where many children are located.

“We must strongly contest this new decision to condition the contract on agreeing to accept child predators, even for facilities that may be located near schools, child care facilities and other places where children congregate,” Norton said in the news release. “Due to its high density, almost all locations in the District are within 1,000 feet of areas where children congregate.”

The BOP will have to balance public safety with the need to provide crucial support and resources to formerly incarcerated offenders necessary for them to reintegrate after their release, Marc Morjé Howard, director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative at Georgetown, wrote in an email to The Hoya.

“There is no easy solution to this dilemma. While the concern over sex offenders is understandable and real, finding effective ways to support returning citizens is one of the greatest challenges we face in the context of criminal justice reform,” Howard said. “Many formerly incarcerated individuals do succeed in becoming productive, responsible, and fully-engaged members of our community.”

Instead of incorporating judicial or legislative approval, the BOP used its contracting power with residential re-entry management programs to change policy, Norton said in the Oct. 11 news release.

“This new requirement appears to be a policy, not a statutory, decision,” Norton said. “Therefore, this change is unwarranted, unworkable, untenable and unacceptable.”

The concern over high-risk prisoners being allowed in residential re-entry management program housing neglects the needs of returning citizens, Howard said.

“By focusing attention on a few of the most difficult cases, we tend to dehumanize these individuals and raise the general level of fear around the larger issue of returning citizens,” he said. “As a result, we then fail to come up with more nuanced solutions that recognize the range of personalities and circumstances involved (not unlike assuming falsely that all immigrants are violent gang members).”

Norton previously challenged the BOP for failing to evacuate inmates during natural disasters in a Nov. 1, 2017 news release from her website. After her statement, she met with then-BOP Director Mark Inch to discuss the matter.

BOP has not yet responded to Norton’s letter on this specific issue. However, earlier in October, Norton petitioned the BOP to relocate juvenile inmates from D.C. to facilities closer to the city, according to an Oct. 4 news release. This letter has also received no response.

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