July 22, 2016 (amended from July 18, 2016)
DCDOC is reaching out to its stakeholders and community advocates to provide an update on efforts to address the impact of this summer’s hot weather on the jail’s cooling system. I want to be very transparent in sharing information with you on how we’re dealing with the summer heat in our jail operations. DCDOC and the Department of General Services (DGS) are working collaboratively to immediately improve as best we can the facility’s airflow and circulation system issues. There are 1,191 minimum, medium and maximum custody inmates currently housed at the jail. While each year the system undergoes maintenance, it is important to note that because the jail is over forty years old, (operates 24/7, 365 days a year) with elevated temperature levels the air cooling system requires a higher level of output. Although the air circulation/airflow within the building is not optimal, we are monitoring levels on a daily basis and making accommodations to ensure safe conditions for both inmates and staff.
Immediate Operational Changes Implemented by DCDOC
- Temperatures are being monitored on a daily basis in all inmate housing units and other areas of the jail;
- Extra ice is being purchased for regular distribution on the housing units— cold drinks are also available;
- Inmates are being allowed additional showers;
- The population may now wear shorts, remove their uniform tops, and wear only tee shirts and flip flops on the units;
- Large industrial fans have been placed in the common areas of all housing units—the number has been increased with the warmer temperatures;
- Out of cell time is increased as staffing and security permits;
- Inmates identified as having special medical needs are being regularly assessed and reasonable accommodations are made as medically indicated by healthcare staff;
- Correctional staff are being provided additional breaks and water as needed and being allowed to wear lightweight navy blue shirts while on housing unit duty
Status of Work by HVAC System Contractor
During this past weekend there was a contractor at the facility performing additional emergency work on the air cooling system. The company flushed the chiller system’s rooftop water coils and strainers and bled the system drain lines. This has resulted in improvements in both the supply air and return air temperatures.
Today and for the remainder of the week, work will continue on the system with new air duct grills installed (to replace old louvers in duct system), the chilled water system cleaned and flushed, and pipe strainers replaced.
DCDOC and DGS will continue to aggressively explore viable options to improve system output.
Erroneous Reports on Inmate Death
On another matter, I wanted to address inaccurate information that has been shared. Unfortunately, last week there was an inmate death in the jail. On Thursday, July 14th, Inmate Lester Irby, age 70, expired of apparent natural causes. The official cause of death will be known once the medical examiner makes a final determination. While this was reported by some media outlets as “heat related”, at this time there has been no medical report or initial medical assessment indicating a correlation between elevated temperatures and this inmate’s death. News reports that tried to make this unsubstantiated link were in my view irresponsible.
Please be assured that I am as concerned as anyone--- and will continue to do everything possible to address the summer heat issues impacting both jail staff and inmates.
Update: Transfer of Inmates
The Department of Corrections is assessing and triaging inmates who should be transferred to cooler units based on medical conditions (as clinically determined by healthcare staff). The options are movement to the CTF or cooler units within the jail. Please note that after identification of medical needs, the DOC assesses eligibility for transfer based on separations, classification and other factors that impact the protection of the inmate population and the safety, security and order of the facilities.
DOC medical staff and Unity Healthcare doctors are providing daily recommendations regarding the need to move inmates. As a result of medical assessments, DOC has begun to make use of the CTF. Earlier this week, there was a group of inmates moved to the CTF and to cooler units within the facility. This process will continue moving forward. In addition, a number of federal inmates have been moved to a facility outside the District.