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University of the District of Columbia Law Review

Abstract

In 1909, a presidential commission made the following comment about the conditions that prevailed in the District of Columbia's jail: That men and women should be sent to these narrow and confined cells, the lazy to be fostered in laziness, the industrious to be deprived of every form of employment, in one promiscuous assembly, to corrupt and be corrupted by each other, to be fed like beasts and maintained at the public charge, with no prospect for improvement in condition, with the moral certainty that they will come out far worse than they went in, is a fact that has become a stench in the nostrils of the whole community, and ought to be felt as a shame and disgrace to the whole nation.1 Unfortunately, this passage accurately describes the conditions in which many of the District's prisoners live today. Significant abuses of the prison population continue despite many lawsuits and hundreds of court orders. As is discussed in greater length below, the District has been slow to respond to the crisis in its correctional institutions and has been recalcitrant in its compliance with court orders. This article will give a brief history of this litigation, discuss the obstacles to obtaining compliance with court orders and will conclude with recommendations for litigants and for the District on ways to improve the District's success in meeting its court-ordered obligations.

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