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Prison chief makes major changes

(Published January 10, 2000)


Staff Writer

Major changes at the D.C. Jail have seen the ousting of the facilityís top administrators and the creation of a new internal affairs unit responsible for investigating misconduct at the jail.

The jailís warden, two deputy wardens and three other top administrators were replaced Dec. 30 by Department of Corrections Director Odie Washington.

Washington said the new administrators were put in place in an effort to improve the management of the jail, not in response to any specific complaints about the outgoing supervisors.

The administrative changes were a result of an analysis of the jailís management he conducted since he took office 10 months ago, Washington said. He said none of the former administrators were fired by the department and all have been reassigned.

"This is really an attempt to simply do better than what weíre doing now," Washington said.

Patricia Britton-Jackson was named new warden of the D.C. Jail, effective Jan. 3. The 17-year veteran of the Department of Corrections replaced Joyce Jones, who has been with the department for almost 27 years and served as acting warden since last fall. Britton-Jackson was warden of the Districtís prison at Occoquan until it closed last October and most recently worked in the corrections directorís office.

Two deputy wardens, Mario Randle and Steve Smith, were reassigned. They were replaced by Donald Jones, who will be acting deputy warden for operations, and Dianne Howell-Derricott, who was named acting deputy warden for programs.

Washington also replaced three other administrators responsible for operations, administration and support services.

In addition to the personnel changes, Washington established an internal affairs office to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct and malfeasance within the department. He said the new office will free up officers from the Metropolitan Police Department, who reported to more than 400 calls at the D.C. Jail last year.

Washington characterized most of those calls as "nuisance" calls and said most could have been investigated by an internal affairs unit without involving the police.

The new office will be headed by Pamela Chisholm, who prior to her appointment was an investigator with the Office of the Inspector General. The office will be staffed by three other investigators who will have police powers to make arrests and investigate cases.

Washington said the new office will bring the District in line with other major cities, which also have internal affairs units for their corrections systems.

Washington said the unit will be a means for corrections employees to report malfeasance or corruption in the department. The unit also will investigate allegations of corruption or brutality made against corrections officers.

"The more that we can root out corruption and problems, the safer and more secure we make it not only for the public but for our entire agency," Washington said.

The office will work with D.C. police, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the inspector generalís office when necessary but will report directly to the Department of Corrections.

Washington came in to head the department at a time when, under congressional mandate, the Federal Bureau of Prisons is taking over responsibility for most of the Districtís prisoners and the department is getting ready to close its Lorton prison complex in Northern Virginia. The department currently has about 2,200 employees, but that number will likely be cut in half by the time Lorton is closed and the prisoners are moved to another facility.

Washington said the changes he is making will help move the Department of Corrections from a prison system to a municipal jail system. The departmentís prisoner population will shrink from about 10,000 to around 2,100 when Lorton is closed.

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator