Photo by Tassos Katopodis/Getty Images for the Congressional Integrity Project
A congressional tour of Washington, D.C. prisons on Jan. 6 by the defendants’ wing ended with conflicting accounts of how accused Capitol rioters are being treated behind bars.
A post-tour press conference led to some physical clashes between protesters, hecklers and onlookers, with Republican House members claiming on January 6 that the inmates were being denied due process, some medical care and benefits provided to other prison inmates.
But Democratic House members who attended the tour argued that the Jan. 6 inmates are receiving uniquely favorable conditions — including access to recreational equipment, freedom of movement and access to 24-hour medical care.
A two-hour Friday afternoon visit for the bipartisan group of House members included a lengthy visit Jan. 6 with the defendants who are being held in pretrial detention at the D.C. jail. House Republicans who attended the tour, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Georgia, said defendants were being held unacceptably long while awaiting trial.
“They deserve a speedy and speedy trial,” Greene said. “That’s not happening here.”
He claims that the defendants do not have access to some of the educational programs and sports television offered to other D.C. inmates.
Rep. Byron Donalds, Republican of Florida, said the lengthy pretrial detention conditions violated “constitutional rights and constitutional principles.”
But Democratic representatives Jasmine Crockett of Texas and Robert Garcia of California strongly condemned the Republicans’ criticism. Crockett claimed on January 6 that the defendants were recipients of “privileges”, including freedom to move and separate prison cells, as opposed to shared cells.
“(The defendants) had more access to technology (than the other defendants) on Jan. 6,” Crockett said. Crockett, who was an attorney before being elected to Congress, told reporters, “They have access to laptops and tablets. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
He also said the Jan. 6 defendants had access to yoga classes, were able to send text messages to family and could enroll in programs to earn their GEDs while in jail.
On January 6, there were conflicting allegations about the medical treatment of the accused in the jail.
But Greene argued that inmates were not receiving full or proper care, including an alleged rioter who is a cancer patient.
However, Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia disputed that notion and said on January 6 that the defendants had access to “24-hour medical care” and “very professional” staff.
Republicans on the prison tour “were treating some of these people like they were celebrities,” Garcia told reporters. “It’s quite a shame in my opinion,” adding, “We were in an open house with people who invaded our country.”
In the two years since the Jan. 6 attacks, the number of defendants in D.C. jails has typically been between 20 and 40.
In a statement Friday, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said the current inmates include “17 people accused of violently assaulting federal officers, and nine of them have already been convicted of that crime or other equally serious crimes.”
On January 6, relatives of some of the accused staged an overnight protest outside the jail, led by Ashley Babbitt’s mother. Babbitt was shot and killed while breaching a door in the House Speaker’s lobby on January 6, 2021, while members of Congress were trying to get away from the crowd. Demonstrations are taking place at night from August 1, 2022 Nicole Refitt, another Texas organizer, estimated 5,000-8,000 people watched a live stream of video feeds of the protest.
During House Republicans’ press conference on Friday, hecklers and protesters shouted and used a whistling device to drown out lawmakers’ audio. Another protester set up a large video screen showing images of the most violent moments of the Capitol attack amid scenes from the news conference.
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