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D.C. solicits groups to conduct community engagement for jail redevelopment

The long-discussed project could make some headway in 2019

D.C. Jail
D.C. government

For years, District leaders and advocates have considered ways to redevelop the D.C. Jail, a dilapidated facility in Hill East that houses hundreds of inmates awaiting trial or transfer to federal prisons around the country. But a feasible plan for building and operating a new jail has yet to materialize publicly, despite the fact that officials sought one in 2016. Since then, they have also reportedly received and rejected a few unsolicited redevelopment proposals.

Now, D.C.’s Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants (OVSJG), which helps fund public safety initiatives, is searching for organizations that could collect feedback on the would-be redevelopment of the jail, located at 1901 D St. SE on an underdeveloped plot of land called Reservation 13. OVSJG released a solicitation for “stakeholder engagement” services around the “design and construction of a new correctional facility in the District” earlier this month.

The solicitation, which has not been previously reported, says “up to $150,000” is available from Jan 1. through Sept. 30, 2019 for a group that could create a report, website, or public presentation on the state of incarceration in D.C., “programing and services” that should be part of the D.C. Jail, and “space/design considerations” for constructing a new facility. Such a document should also address the “criteria to be considered in determining a location of the jail,” like access to public transit, and “coordination with community-based post release services,” like supportive housing, according to the solicitation. Responses are due Oct. 31.

OVSJG’s “request for applications” suggests that residents could see more activity related to the redevelopment of the D.C. Jail next year than they have seen to date. But it does not indicate how long the development project would take to complete from beginning to end, how much it would cost, or how it would be budgeted for. A previous “public safety master plan” commissioned by ex-Mayor Vincent Gray but scrapped by Mayor Muriel Bowser had recommended that officials construct a $1.1 billion “justice center” in Southwest, to include a new jail as well as a new headquarters for the D.C. police department and other agencies.

The latest push for community engagement around the D.C. Jail redevelopment stems from funding that lawmakers set aside for it last spring, public records show. According to a D.C. Council committee report on the fiscal year 2019 budget, lawmakers directed $150,000 to OVSJG for this purpose after the Bowser administration had proposed reducing the office’s grant funding by $2 million. (The fiscal year runs from Oct. 1, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2019.)

The solicitation stresses that bidders should show how they would incorporate feedback from various community members, including “currently incarcerated individuals and their families, returning citizens and their families, corrections officials, community members, academic and research institutions, [and] criminal justice advocates,” among others, into their final product. The winner must submit their final product to OVSJG by Aug. 30, 2019.