Congressional Report Details Squalid Conditions Faced by Jan. 6 Defendants
A report authored by the office of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) released Tuesday chronicles the status of the approximately 40 individuals still in pretrial detention for alleged crimes committed during the January 6 Capitol riot. Since her November visit to the DC lockup, Greene has repeatedly decried conditions faced by Jan. 6 defendants, whom she calls “prisoners of war,” in the “deplorable jail,” but Tuesday’s report offered the first in-depth look into what Greene and others saw in two D.C. correctional facilities.
The congressional delegation’s eyewitness account appears to corroborate Jan. 6 inmates’ previous claims about the conditions of their detention. Some inmates are on the brink of medical crises, as the jail has allegedly denied one 71-year-old inmate medical attention and refused to meet the dietary restrictions of another with celiac disease. Inmates are are unable to attend church services or receive Communion without vaccination and unable to participate in some of the jail’s educational programming to the same extent as other inmates—programming they claim is rooted in critical race theory anyway. At one point, some Jan. 6 inmates were allotted the same limited hours outside their cells as were granted to violent inmates in the jail’s maximum-security wing. The report makes clear these individuals—supposed to be presumed innocent of their accused crimes—suffer under the custody of an overtly and unapologetically liberal-leaning correctional facility.
After Greene released the report, she and Reps. Gohmert (R-TX), Gosar (R-AZ), and Gaetz (R-FL) gave a press conference in which Greene argued Jan. 6 defendants have been subjected to a “two-tiered justice system.”
“What’s happening to these people being held in custody is wrong, it’s unconstitutional, its a violation of their rights, and it is an abuse that I call on every single member of congress to start paying attention to,” Greene claimed.
Gohmert called what’s happening “outrageous” and added, “for those who are still taught any type of civics or government, you know that under our system, you are innocent until proven guilty.” Yet, Gohmert claimed, those accused of crimes on Jan. 6 are being punished as if they’ve already been convicted.
Had the D.C. mayor’s office and Department of Corrections gotten their way, none of these accounts would have come to light. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office made multiple attempts to keep Greene, Gohmert, Gaetz, and Gosar from touring the jail, even going so far as to threaten the congressmen with trespassing if they entered the facility. When they finally extended permission to Greene and Gohmert, it was on remarkably short notice—about 15 minutes before a tour for members of D.C. City Council was scheduled to start. On Greene and Gohmert’s visit, the jail staff tried to end the tour before visiting the Jan. 6 inmates.
The tour, which spanned three and a half hours, was divided between the Central Detention Facility (CDF) and the Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF), the latter of which being where Greene and Gohmert spoke to detainees connected to the Jan. 6 riots.
In the CDF, D.C. City Council members and the congressional delegation met with inmates in general population and discussed educational opportunities provided to inmates. Then, they proceeded to the jail’s two maximum-security blocks—with one unit primarily for inmates who have assaulted, and another primarily for inmates who have sexually assaulted, other inmates or DOC staff. The first maximum-security block, devoted to assault offenders, was called One Block South. It reportedly “reeked of an unknown burning chemical smell,” which jail staff claimed was due to “inmates lighting their toilet paper on fire by producing sparks from alternating their cell light switch.” However, “representatives and staff found it unbelievable that the smell was solely the result of burning toilet paper. The area reeked of marijuana and other substances which were not readily classified.” The smell was so nauseating that the tour moved on after only ten minutes to the second maximum-security area, where conditions were similar, but security measures—such as the presence of “tactical weapons”—were more pronounced.
After touring the CDF, the delegation was taken to the CTF, where Greene and Gohmert got a taste of two educational programs put on for inmates. The first, called the Moot Court Team, was part of a “street law” course provided to inmates by the correctional facility. The second, a program for younger inmates called Young Men Emerging (YME), involved a daily routine of “outdoor exercise, book club, chores (including cleaning), and access to educational programing.”
Greene reportedly spoke to one inmate about the book club’s reading list. The inmate said they were currently reading Marc Morjé Howard’s Unusually Cruel, a book that argues the American criminal-justice system is crueler and more punitive than those of other democratic nations and describes the U.S. prison system as racist à la Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, which was next on the book club’s docket.
The inmate’s account appears to validate claims made in a November letter by two individuals held in the D.C. jail for their alleged participation in the Jan. 6 riot—that they were “force fed CRT [critical race theory],” “reeducation propaganda,” and “anti-White messaging” on tablets that members of the inmate population were allowed to use. “This is not a correctional facility, this is an evisceration facility, designed to break the body, mind, and soul of men whom are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” the inmates said in the letter that outlined more than 75 offenses allegedly perpetrated against them inside the facility.
After meeting with the two groups of maximum-security inmates, a staff member from the mayor’s office abruptly informed Greene and Gohmert that their tour was over. The congressmen had not yet seen the Jan. 6 pretrial detainees. Greene and Gohmert pushed back, demanding to meet Jan. 6 inmates and threatening to use their respective bully pulpits if they were denied. Eventually, the DOC caved.
The block where Jan. 6 pretrial inmates were being held was in “a much older part of the jail that had not been updated in many years.” The unit was two stories high, with cells on each level lining the perimeter of an open area that had a few chairs and tables. Someone had previously told the delegation the unit was a psychiatric ward prior to the arrival of Jan. 6 inmates. “[R]ecently removed mold, dirt, and other stains were clearly visible” inside of the cells and showers, according to the report. Inmates told Greene and Gohmert that the facility looked much worse before the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) cleaned the area and repainted some of the walls days prior to the delegation’s arrival.
The report did not specify the date on which the USMS cleaned the area where the Jan. 6 inmates are being held. However, the USMS released a statement on Nov. 2 that said the CDF—the other part of the D.C. jail—did not meet the “minimum standards of confinement.” The USMS’s determination ultimately required the CDF’s 400 detainees to be transferred to another facility in Pennsylvania, and—while the report was unable to determine exactly when the tour for members of the D.C. City Council was scheduled—seemed to provide the impetus for the D.C. City Council to tour the facility and evaluate the treatment of inmates.
Once Greene and Gohmert entered the area of the CTF where Jan. 6 detainees were held, inmates filed into the open space apparently used for recreation hours to meet the congressmen. The inmates said they had not been allowed to speak to their attorneys to adequately prepare for their defense, and have had very limited access to their families. One inmate said he hadn’t seen his family since April; another said he hadn’t seen his since the very beginning of the year.
Inmates went on to describe the poor conditions they were subjected to. They get three small meals a day, but some inmates claimed the jail purposefully makes their food taste bad. One even claimed they found pubic hair in their food. To supplement their diets, the inmates have the option to buy food from the commissary once a week with their own money, and can spend a maximum of $125. Like the other inmates, haircuts were available only to the vaccinated, and so the unvaccinated inmates use Nair to chemically remove excess hair.
The report claims some Jan. 6 inmates seemed in desperate need of medical help. One inmate, 71-year-old Leroy Coffman, showed the delegation that one of his forearms had turned purple, and his thumb black, but said he was being denied medical treatment. Other inmates expressed their concern that Coffman could end up losing part of his arm if left untreated, and asked that if the members of Congress could help free one person that it be Coffman. One inmate suffers from celiac disease and has, in some instances, been forced to go multiple days without eating because the jail staff refuses to provide him with meals to fit his dietary needs. Another inmate showed the congressional delegation his broken finger.
As for the educational and recreational opportunities that the DOC touted in nearly every other area of the facility, the Jan. 6 inmates said their access to those opportunities is severely limited. Unlike inmates in the YME program, who are able to regularly go outside, the still-presumed-innocent inmates from Jan. 6 are allowed to go outside just twice a week. The Jan. 6 inmates also claimed they get five hours outside of their cells every day. One inmate, who has been in the jail since February, said that five hours was preferable to the one hour he had received for four months after his initial detention and the two hours he got for two months after that. For comparison, maximum-security inmates held in One Block South are granted two hours of recreation a day. For six months, this inmate, as well as many others, were allegedly treated like maximum-security offenders.
Unlike other inmates in the jail, who can attend religious services, Jan. 6 pretrial detainees are not allowed to attend—supposedly because they are unvaccinated. So, they put on their own with the Bibles they have. They added that they are denied Communion unless they are vaccinated. When Greene asked about the education programs, inmates reportedly laughed sarcastically because they had discovered the curriculum was centered around critical race theory.
One inmate provided a particularly vivid account in the report from September 18, the same day the “Justice for J6” rally drew a few hundred demonstrators to the National Mall to argue for humane treatment of the inmates. Staff, according to the inmate, “woke us up prisoner-of-war style in the dawn, at 7:00 in the morning.”
[They] made us grab our mattresses in our hands and didn’t tell us where we were going, what was happening, how long we were going to be gone. They marched us down single file out of here, we started singing the national anthem; I got punched in the gut for singing the national anthem by a guard here as retaliation.
They pulled us down into a random part of the jail and kept us there for 9 hours where there were no sinks, no bathrooms, or anything. We didn’t know what was happening to us. It was literally how you treated prisoners-of-war to keep them disoriented and not let them know where you’re going and everything – it was a travesty. They did that to us about at 8:00 in the morning to about 6:00 at night.
It seems the DOC feared the demonstrators would attempt to break the Jan. 6 detainees out of jail, or that the inmates themselves might try something similar. But, nearly three months later, many of the inmates still remain in the jail, subjected to the same squalid conditions. The corporate media, meanwhile, continues to frame Jan. 6 as the largest attack on American democracy since 9/11, Pearl Harbor, or the sacking of Washington D.C. by the British in the War of 1812. The public now knows Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick’s death, while tragic, didn’t come at the hands of a Trumper beating him with a fire extinguisher as the media once reported. Rather, the Washington D.C. medical examiner’s office ruled that Sicknick had suffered a stroke and then died of natural causes. In fact, the only person that died as a result of violence on Jan. 6 was Ashli Babbit.
The left-wing media’s disconnect with reality regarding Jan. 6 is even more stark when compared to what unfolded during the summer of 2020, when riots plagued the country after the police-related death of George Floyd. Corporate media outlets raced to debunk the narrative that Jan. 6 detainees were being treated worse than 2020 rioters and mistreated in during their detention. Along with their own research, the Washington Post and the New York Times cited an Associated Press analysis that compared 300 federal cases from the 2020 racial-justice riots to the cases from Jan. 6 and found no meaningful discrepancies in treatment between the two.
However, RealClearInvestigations, the investigatory arm of RealClearPolitics, published a more comprehensive analysis comparing the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 with both the 2020 summer riots and the left-wing protests that broke out on Trump’s inauguration day. Data accumulated by RealClearInvestigations showed that the 2020 George Floyd riots resulted in more than 20 deaths (including one police officer), more than 2,000 assaults on police officers, one to two billion dollars in property damage, and at least 16,241 arrests. During the Capitol Riot, by contrast, zero police officers were killed by protestors, 140 officers were assaulted or injured, property damage amounted to about $1.5 million, and about 650 individuals have been arrested.
Yet, despite the fact that 25 times more arrests were made in connection with the summer riots than the January 6 riot, alleged participants in the Capitol riot have been charged with at least four times as many federal assault charges and nearly as many federal weapons charges. Further, a higher number of those arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 riots were subject to pretrial detention than were detained pretrial in connection with last summer’s riots.
And while nonviolent offenders with no criminal histories arrested on Jan. 6 were sentenced to months in jail, “in most of a dozen major jurisdictions, 90%+ of citations/charges” were “dropped, dismissed, or otherwise not filed” for the thousands arrested in the George Floyd riots. In Washington D.C. specifically, “D.C. prosecutors dropped most felony rioting charges” for 2020 rioters; only one alleged rioter from January 6 has had his charges (felony obstruction) dropped by D.C. prosecutors. What’s more, federal authorities have “dismissed or are on track to dismiss charges in majority of Portland, Ore., cases largely stemming from violence around federal buildings.”
With regards to the mistreatment of alleged Jan. 6 participants currency held in the D.C. jail, the New York Times has started to strike a completely different tone, publishing a headline that read, “Problems at D.C. Jail Were Ignored Until Jan. 6 Defendants Came Along,” on Nov. 11. It seems the slow leak of information coming out of the D.C. jail has forced the corporate media to follow a pattern we’ve grown accustomed to: It’s not happening. Okay, it’s happening. Of course it’s happening, and those “domestic terrorists” deserve what’s happening to them—even without a plea or conviction in court.
Greene’s account of the congressional delegation’s tour of the D.C. jail appears to confirm that while the Jan. 6 pretrial detainees experience many of the same ignominies as other D.C. inmates, they are being targeted for especially cruel treatment on the basis of their political beliefs or vaccination status—or both.