Photo of the door to one of the several buildings that make up Hope Village. Several signs, including "Authorize Personnel Only," are visible.
The entrance to one of the several residential buildings that comprise the Hope Village re-entry program. Photo by Ben Burgess

Hope Village, the District’s only men’s halfway house, was scheduled to close on October 31st, following a contract dispute with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). At the last minute, however, BOP gave Hope Village an extension until April 2020. From my understanding, all returning citizens will be sent to halfway houses in other cities if D.C. does not get a new halfway house.  

I have two problems with that. First, halfway houses outside of D.C. are too far away for local residents to re-establish relationships with family, especially for returning citizens that have been incarcerated for multiple years. And number two, D.C. inmates have many rivals in the Federal judiciary system and sending returning citizens to halfway houses in other states could cause those tensions to spill over into the communities they are returning to. 

After being incarcerated for years, a person can lose touch with society. I know because I have been in that situation myself. Even out of prison, a person may continue to do things like sleep with a shank, call dinner time “chow time,” or cover the windows when using the bathroom. That’s when family comes into play. Returning citizens needs to be around people that make them feel safe. But it would be hard to establish a good relationship from a different city.  

As to the second point, inmates in federal institutions often separate themselves, through gangs, race, or geographic location. Due to beefs and other things that go on in the institution, D.C. residents have enemies. New York and D.C. were rivals when I was in federal prison eight years ago. I don’t think it has changed. I’m pretty sure that the BOP knows about these rivalries. If they are still beefing, sending an inmate to an unfriendly city would be like throwing the sheep to the wolves. Returning citizens go to the halfway house to transition back into society successfully, not to return to the horrors of prison. After doing your time, you should be able to come home and be safe without the fights.  

When I was released, I just wanted to be with family and feel free and safe of the prison life. Our returning citizens deserve the same. Give them a safe and family-friendly halfway house in D.C. Lives could be on the line for real. Give our returning citizens a chance!