We all saw what unfolded on January 6 at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. It was a national embarrassment and an utter disgrace. CNN and many other news outlets have never stopped reminding us about that fact, in an attempt to further smear former President Trump and all 75 million of his supporters. But in all their extensive coverage of the fallout of the “insurrection,” most of the national media refuses to report on the atrocious living conditions to which some of the roughly 300 rioters who were arrested have been subjected as they await their sentencing from D.C. prison cells.
As recently reported in Just the News, not far from the Capitol, 1,500 inmates are confined to prison cells 22 hours a day. Up until a few weeks ago, it was 23 hours a day. Many, if not all, of the inmates who were involved in the January 6 riots have been placed in “restrictive housing” and have been relegated to “maximum-security” conditions.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the government of D.C., which has full jurisdiction over the prison and has justified this treatment as a necessary “medical stay-in-place” policy for prisons, have repeatedly ignored suggestions of holding congressional inquiries into what some health experts are calling a clear violation of human rights.
While there does not appear to be a clear definition of what “restrictive housing” means, a Department of Corrections (DOC) policy document from August 2019 refers to it by the euphemism “single occupancy housing,” as though it were merely a living option for a student in a college dormitory. The DOC document stipulates that single occupancy is reserved for inmates who are “sexual predators,” engage in “assaultive behavior,” are “likely to be exploited or victimized by others,” or have any “other documented special need.”
But the defendants from the riot are not being held in pretrial detention for any of those crimes. They are being held on charges that include “knowingly entering or remaining in restricted grounds without authority to conspiracy, assault and obstruction of an official proceeding.” While there was no justification for unlawfully entering the Capitol, that does not warrant being treated as a sexual predator or as an individual who engaged in assaultive behavior.
According to PJ Media,
No one arrested for being in the Capitol on January 6th has been charged with insurrection, sedition or anything even close to toppling the government. Though there may have been as many as 300,000+ Trump supporters in Washington, D.C., on January 6, no firearms were recovered at the Capitol. No one has even been charged with arson, because there were no fires lit, yet some of the non-violent protesters are still in jail.
While there is little to nothing that Washington can agree on these days, there does appear to be bipartisan support for how the inmates are being treated.
Kentucky Rep. James Comer, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, has demanded better treatment for the inmates, and even Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Politico last month that “Solitary confinement is a form of punishment that is cruel and psychologically damaging.” Warren worries that the inmates are being punished and forced into cooperation with federal prosecutors. Politico also reported that Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said solitary confinement should be a “rare exception,” for those accused of insurrection and other prisoners.
On the other hand, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continues her crusade against Trump and Capitol Hill protesters with her plans for a congressional commission on the events of January 6.
Due to the COVID pandemic, the jail where the defendants are being held has adhered to strict lockdown procedures, but even if COVID precautions are lifted, the Capitol rioters’ “restrictive housing” designation is not likely to change.
According to Politico, lawyers representing some of the other accused rioters have said that “their clients’ conditions have made it nearly impossible to conduct genuine attorney-client meetings” and that “Two defendants have contracted Covid in the D.C. jail, and one, Ryan Samsel, claims he was beaten by a prison guard and left with permanent eye damage.”
Marty Tankleff, the defense attorney for two clients who have been detained, said, “This is not normal. It’s not normal to isolate people and make them eat on their floor.”
For non-contact visits with clients, lawyers are not allowed to bring phones or computers, which means the defendants are unable to see evidence against them, including recordings from people’s cell phones. That would seem to be a gross violation of due process.
Although Comer has attempted to request a briefing with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser about the harsh treatment of the inmates, as of this writing, Bowser’s office has not responded. Presumably Bowser has much more important issues to deal with, including pushing for D.C. statehood.
Instead, Comer has called on House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) to hold an emergency hearing on Bowser’s “Universal Solitary Confinement of D.C. Inmates.”
Meanwhile, in Democrat-run Portland, where Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Antifa rioters have torched the city for over a year and committed acts of violence in the form of firebombing explosives into federal courthouses, ripping down plywood, smashing windows, throwing rocks, and blinding federal law enforcement officers with lasers, 81 percent of those charged will not be serving any jail time. As PJ Media reported, “Forty-seven of the 96 Portland rioters hit with federal charges relating to attacks on federal buildings have had their charges dropped, including charges of assaulting an officer. Ten people have taken plea deals and they have mostly been sentenced to community service.”
We have heard a lot of talk lately about equal justice under the law. But having two different sets of standards based on whether those in power support or agree with the political motives of those who commit crimes is not equal justice, it is an injustice.
David Keltz was a speechwriter for the Administrator at the U.S. General Services Administration from 2020–21 and is the author of the new book The Campaign of His Life and Media Bias in the Trump Presidency and the Extinction of the Conservative Millennial. He previously served as a White House Intern for Vice President Mike Pence. You can follow him on Twitter @david_keltz or email at email@example.com.