The private North Carolina prison where 1,000 Washington, D.C., inmates are held, the most in any single place, has substandard drug treatment and vocational training programs compared with most federal facilities, says the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The Washington Post reports that BOP director Harley Lappin is revising the federal government’s contract with the Rivers Correctional Institution to make the facility “mirror as close as we can the programs offered in other prisons.” Inmates, families and prisoner advocates have complained for years about conditions at Rivers which is about 200 miles from Washington in Winton, N.C.
D.C. congresssional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton contends that the 7,000 D.C. inmates in 75 institutions nationwide get “second-class” treatment compared with the rest of the 200,000 inmates under federal control. She visited Rivers and a federally run prison in Cumberland, Md., to compare the way inmates are treated. Activities at the two places were as different as night and day, she said. Nonviolent federal offenders get a year off their sentences if they complete a 500-hour drug treatment program. Prisoners serving time for D.C. offenses get no such consideration, even though the D.C. government passed a law two years ago that said they deserved the time off. Lappin expects the disparity to be changed soon.