Mental Health and Incarceration: What a Bad Combination

University of the District of Columbia Law Review David A. Clarke School of Law 7 U.D.C. L. Rev (2003)

13 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2022

Date Written: March 31, 2003


The District of Columbia has one of the highest per capita incarceration and criminal justice supervision rates in the United States and among the highest in the world. The local prison population has risen dramatically over the past decade for a variety of reasons including increased rates of re-incarceration for parole violations and the imposition of longer sentences for drug offenses. Recent acts of Congress have seriously impacted the sentencing laws in the District including determination of where persons sentenced for violating local D.C. laws will serve such sentences. On August 5, 1997, President Clinton signed into law The National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997 (the "Revitalization Act"), / which effectively "federalized" the local prison population by transferring authority for incarcerating D.C. prisoners to the United States Bureau of Prisons. Thus, while there are still "local prisoners," there is no longer a local prison, nor do the D.C. prisoners remain "local." Rather, persons convicted of crimes in the District of Columbia are now held in prisons operated by, or contracted on behalf of, the federal government.

The Revitalization Act also mandated the creation of a District of Columbia Truth-In-Sentencing Commission to make recommendations to the Council of the District of Columbia to completely revamp the local sentencing structure. Changes included altering the sentence a judge may impose from an indeterminate to a determinate sentencing structure, abolishing parole for thirty-seven felony offenses, and requiring offenders to serve at least 85% of any prison sentence imposed for those offenses. These recommendations became law in August 2000.

The Revitalization Act also abolished the local D.C. Board of Parole and authorized the United States. Parole Commission to make all parole grant and release decisions, including the specific terms of supervised release, the decision to revoke supervised release, and the length of any prison sentence upon revocation of supervised release. Although several state legislatures have enacted major changes in their sentencing and corrections policies, nowhere else in the country has Congress imposed such significant changes in the entire criminal justice system, from the sentencing phase to incarceration to parole supervision.

Currently there are approximately 11,000 men and women incarcerated who have been convicted for violating a D.C. criminal code offense. Because of the Revitalization Act, approximately 9,000 prisoners are in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons and are housed in federal, state, or private facilities operated by or contracted for by the Bureau of Prisons for such term of imprisonment as the court has directed. Therefore, the District of Columbia Central Detention Facility (otherwise known as the D.C. Jail) and the privately operated Corrections Corporation of America Correctional Treatment Facility ("CCA/CTF") are the two local facilities that house D.C. code offenders. Currently, there are approximately 717 prisoners housed at CCA/CTF and nearly 1900 at the Jail.

Keywords: Incarceration, Mental Health, Revitalization Act

Suggested Citation

Moyd, Olinda, Mental Health and Incarceration: What a Bad Combination (March 31, 2003). University of the District of Columbia Law Review David A. Clarke School of Law 7 U.D.C. L. Rev (2003), Available at SSRN:

Olinda Moyd (Contact Author)

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