Emily Brooks, Washington Examiner
Republican interest in the treatment of people charged in connection to the Capitol riot detained in Washington, D.C., jails is not just limited to firebrand Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, as House Republicans made it a top priority during a congressional hearing Friday.
Julie Kelly, a senior writer at American Greatness and self-described “Jan. 6 truth seeker,” was a witness selected by Republicans on Friday at a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security hearing that aimed to examine the First Step Act, prison responses to the coronavirus pandemic, and “compassionate release.”
Kelly has written and reported extensively about poor D.C. jail conditions for those arrested in connection with the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. She wrote a book about what she says is a politically motivated “war on terror against the political right.”
“When you meet the federal guidelines for pretrial release, it is not compassionate, it is not due process, it is not fair or equitable to be confined in a prison in a jail with the conditions that … many of these Jan. 6 defendants await their the outcomes of their cases,” subcommittee ranking member Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona said in the hearing. He has requested that Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler hold a hearing about the treatment of Jan. 6 defendants
While the vast majority of the hundreds arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 riot were not held in pretrial detention, there are around 40 or so who are still in the D.C. jail, some of whom have been ruled to be dangers to the community.
“What we really have is a political prison in the United States,” Kelly said.
She talked about jail officials who were held in contempt of court for improperly delaying medical treatment for a Jan. 6 inmate and a lack of access to personal hygiene services. Kelly said some of the defendants have not been charged with any violent crime and that the jail is under 22-hour lockdown due to COVID-19. The defendants have no access to surveillance footage in the Capitol, she said, and noted that one judge criticized the D.C. jail for withholding evidence.
Rep. Jim Jordan, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, cited Kelly’s reporting in talking to Jan. 6 inmates that “the conditions under which they were being held that seem to reflect the attitude” that the jail warden, who was held in contempt of court, conveyed in social media posts a dislike for the former president.
Republican Rep. Greg Stube of Florida said some of those arrested were questioned about their political beliefs and asked Kelly to talk about the role political motivations played in their treatment.
That Republicans are rallying around Kelly signals growing congressional interest in the alleged mistreatment or unfair treatment of Jan. 6 inmates based on their political beliefs.
Last year, in addition to Greene, Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Paul Gosar of Arizona were at the forefront of talking about the treatment of Jan. 6 detainees.
Greene and Gohmert toured a D.C. jail in November after repeatedly seeking access. Greene’s office released a report by the Georgia lawmaker based on the tour called “Unusually Cruel: An Eyewitness Report From Inside The DC Jail,” in which one inmate claimed he had gone through more than 200 days of solitary confinement. The four firebrands held a press conference about their findings in December.
On Nov. 1, the U.S. Marshals Service reported concerns about the conditions at the Central Detention Facility, which led to a transfer of inmates. However, it found the conditions at the Correctional Treatment Facility, where the Jan. 6 inmates were being held, to be “largely appropriate and consistent with federal prisoner detention standards.”
But in a case for one of the Jan. 6 inmates, U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves wrote in a filing this month that U.S. Marshals found “deficiencies” at the Washington, D.C., jail where inmates charged in connection to the Capitol riot are being held and that more details would be forthcoming.
Kelly said during the hearing that she does not know whether the treatment the Jan. 6 prisoners are receiving is consistent with all federal prisoners in pretrial detention.
But for some activists, poor D.C. jail conditions are nothing new.
Another witness at the hearing, Iowa College of Law clinical associate professor Alison Guernsey, said pretrial detention conditions that the Jan. 6 inmates face is “quite similar for most of my clients who’ve been held in pretrial detention — not identical, given the conditions of the jail — but this is something that black and brown individuals [and] non-January defendants face across the country.”
“As many have noted, concerns about conditions in the jail received little attention until they were raised, of course, by mostly white defendants accused of perpetrating the Jan. 6 insurrection,” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said at a council hearing in November. “That’s not because people weren’t complaining.”