WASHINGTON — The federal government announced plans Friday to build a 1,000-bed prison in the District of Columbia, where a crack cocaine epidemic and America's worst murder rate have taxed local facilities.
Bureau of Prisons Director J. Michael Quinlan said the proposed $80-million Metropolitan Detention Center will hold defendants in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service while they await trial. The facility is designed to help relieve severe overcrowding at the District of Columbia Jail.
"This institution will significantly enhance public safety by taking drug offenders and other violent criminals off the street while they are awaiting trial," Quinlan said.
Spurred in part by a bloody turf war between crack cocaine dealers, Washington last year had the nation's highest per capita murder rate, earning it the dubious title of "murder capital."
Quinlan said the District of Columbia Jail holds about 400 federal prisoners under supervision of U.S. marshals. Those inmates would be moved to the new facility.
He said the bureau also will make 300 beds in the new prison available to the D.C. Department of Corrections for local offenders. The District would reimburse the government for prisoners sent to the new facility.
Quinlan said the remaining space at the detention center would be devoted to pre-trial confinement of "additional dangerous federal offenders" and to "accommodate the rapidly growing law enforcement activity in the D.C. area."
Three sites are being considered for the new prison, which officials hope to have operating late in 1993. Two of the sites are about a mile north of the Capitol, and the third is about three-quarters of a mile to the south.