Hope Village is the largest federal halfway house in the country, with approximately 300 beds. It is the only federally contracted halfway house for men in the District of Columbia. Hope Village houses federal prisoners who are about to be released and a smaller number individuals awaiting trial. Many of the people at Hope Village have been designated for home confinement by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and are typically eligible for release on home confinement within 6 months of their release date. Prisoners are placed at Hope Village by the Federal Bureau of Prisons or the D.C. Department of Corrections. The private company Hope Village, Inc., runs the facility.
During normal operations, prisoners come and go during the day for jobs and training, to look for work, to obtain medical care, to visit family, and for other necessities. With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading around the globe, in March 2020, Hope Village locked down, forbidding prisoners to leave. The conditions in which they are forced to live now place them at grave risk of contracting the virus.
Contrary to District of Columbia policy and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), prisoners at Hope Village are required to sleep in close quarters and bunk beds, about three feet apart. The prisoners eat together in crowded dining rooms and share bathrooms. The prisoners are forced to clean the facilities themselves, but Hope Village has failed to provide prisoners with the most basic supplies to clean their living areas or maintain the rigorous personal hygiene the CDC is urging. The conditions in Hope Village make it impossible for the prisoners and pre-trial detainees housed there to avoid congregating in groups or practice social distancing, maintain the required hygiene, and limit the high risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Furthermore, Hope Village have failed to provide even the most basic medical care during this health emergency. Hope Village has failed to provide prompt medical attention and testing to those with COVID-19 symptoms. Hope Village does not have an on-site medical staff. Prisoners at Hope Village who are ill have been forced to call 9-1-1 themselves for help.
The federal and D.C. governments have refused to exercise their discretion to provide early release for Hope Village prisoners and significantly reduce the population in the facility. Instead, prisoners must remain there, confined in tight quarters as the COVID-19 crisis spreads like wildfire – putting them, Hope Village staff, and the broader community at great risk for infection, illness, or death due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In early April 2020, the ACLU-DC, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and the law firm Latham & Watkins, sued federal and D.C. defendants and Hope Village, Inc., on behalf of two specific Hope Village prisoners and the class of everyone at the facility. The same day as the complaint, Plaintiffs moved for a TRO seeking class-wide relief requiring defendants to reduce the number of individuals confined at Hope Village and to implement other basic health and safety policies and procedures that would mitigate the risk to the individuals forced to remain there.
At a hearing five days after we filed the case, the court denied our motion for emergency relief but ordered daily reporting by Hope Village and the Bureau of Prisons regarding the number and status of residents at Hope Village.
As we continued to litigate the case in the ensuing weeks, Hope Village announced it would close its doors at the end of April, and the Bureau of Prisons steadily downsized the population confined there, in significant part by approving individuals for home confinement. At a status hearing on April 24, a lawyer for the Bureau of Prisons told the court that most of the 120 men who remain at Hope Village would be sent to home confinement in the next several days, and the rest would be sent to other halfway houses rather than back to prison. The following week, we learned that these transfers had in fact occurred.
On April 28, 2020, with the Hope Village population down to the single digits, Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their case.