"This is a case in which history insists on repeating itself. The subject matter is virtually identical to a prior case before this Court, the arguments are the same, even the same procedural defaults have been made. If the past is prologue, then the result here must be predictable."
These are the words of D.C. District Judge Royce Lamberth, whose opinion granting class certification to about 40 federal inmates yesterday set the wheels in motion for the latest test of D.C.'s beleaguered Department of Corrections. The class action suit at hand deals with inmates'
allegations that they were over-detained—for days and sometimes weeks—past their release dates and subject to strip searches. (Legal Times has detailed these recent mishaps before.)
Indeed the case is eerily similar to a 2002 suit where 4,000 former prisoners in D.C.'s jails made similiar allegations. The two sides settled in August 2005.
The previous suit showed that the problems generally arose when inmates were taken from court back to one of the city's two correctional facilities for out-processing. So as part of the 2005 settlement, D.O.C. moved the out-processing to the D.C. General Hospital. But sometime around December 2005, Lamberth wrote, the system broke down--and many inmates were sent back to the jail instead. "Once there they encountered the same dance with DOC," Lamberth wrote.
In the current round of litigation, Lamberth offered little sympathy for D.O.C.'s apparent delay tactics. Lamberth denied the agency's motion for summary judgment (noting the "thin" record from D.O.C.—a single affidavit with "several evidentiary deficiencies") as well as its request to postpone the plaintiffs' class certification (noting that D.O.C. already had 10 months to get its act together—two months longer than in the previous over-detention case).