By Emily Gasoi, Ward 1 Representative
On February 6, 2020, the State Board team visited the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) Central Detention Facility (CDF). Upon arrival, we were greeted by Director Quincy Booth, Deputy Director of Professional Development & College and Career Readiness, Amy Lopez, and Public Information Officer, Dr. Keena Blackmon. Before beginning the tour, Director Booth and Deputy Director Lopez gave us a quick overview of D.C. Jail.
For starters, they emphasized that the terms “jail” and “prison” are not interchangeable. Jails are facilities for those who are awaiting trial or have committed minor offenses while prisons tend to be facilities for those who have been convicted and have longer sentences. This means that D.C. Jail’s population is rather transient—some residents are housed for as short as a day, week, or month, while some are housed for several months or years. Consequently, while Director Booth and Deputy Director Lopez have invested heavily over the past two years to develop and implement educational opportunities and programs for all of their residents, a persistent challenge is how to ensure that their residents are gaining valuable skills, certifications, or even degrees before they leave.
Furthermore, Ms. Lopez discussed how one barrier is the building itself—there is one building unit in CDF that has no windows and little space. It is hard to expand programs when the building was not designed with classrooms in mind. However, despite these challenges, it seems that many of the educational initiatives are making a difference. We heard from residents enrolled in a number of the programs and they really impressed upon us how meaningful these opportunities are to them—like a window on the world that they hope to re-enter with new and immediately applicable skills. Here are a few examples: