A federal judge has ordered a January 6 defendant to be released from the DC jail after an unannounced inspection by US Marshals last month showed mistreatment of detainees and increased the judge’s concern that a defendant with cancer would not be treated properly.
Judge Royce Lamberth said that the conditions in the jail were “deplorable” and “beyond belief,” and ordered that defendant Christopher Worrell be transferred immediately to a different jail, and released on home detention as soon as possible to start chemotherapy.
“This court has zero confidence that the DC jail” will provide the treatment correctly and not retaliate against Worrell, Lamberth said.
The Marshals Service is moving 400 prisoners out of a section of the DC Jail after discovering horrible conditions in the jail, like water being shutoff in many cells for several days, clogged toilets and an inmate who had been pepper sprayed and was unable to wash the spray off for days, leading to an infection.
According to a report from the Marshals Service – which Lamberth made public Wednesday – the agency also observed DC Department of Corrections staff “antagonizing detainees” and “directing detainees to not cooperate with” the Marshals during their inspection. “One DOC staffer was observed telling a detainee to ‘stop snitching,’” according to the report.
The report also said that “water to cells is routinely shut off for punitive reasons” with many cells being “shut off for days, inhibiting detainees from drinking water, washing hands, or flushing toilets.” The Marshals also found poor entrance screening procedures to the jail and improper food service, with meals “served cold and congealed.”
However, most prisoners being held for January 6 offenses remain at the jail because they are in what’s known as the Central Treatment Facility, and it passed the inspection. Worrell is the first January 6 defendant to be removed from the jail after the inspection.
Worrell has been indicted on six federal charges. Prosecutors say he wore tactical gear and a radio earpiece, and marched with the Proud Boys extremist group to the Capitol. He then allegedly used pepper spray to assault police officers. He has pleaded not guilty.
Lamberth’s decision on Wednesday is the latest fallout after the Capitol riot cases have put increased attention on the conditions for inmates at the DC Jail, which has for years struggled with safety and cleanliness. Many detained Capitol riot defendants have been complaining about the conditions at the DC jail, and Lamberth referred the jail to the Department of Justice last month for potentially violating Worrell’s civil rights.
Lamberth also held both Warden Wanda Patten and Department of Corrections Director Quincy Booth in civil contempt last month for failing to turn over Worrell’s medical records. Patten and Booth filed a motion Wednesday for reconsideration of Lamberth’s contempt order, arguing – among other things – that the medical requests were produced in an appropriate amount of time.
Worrell has since become a cause célèbre in right-wing circles who are claiming that the jail and the Justice Department are treating January 6 defendants unfairly.
Worrell has faced numerous medical issues while at the jail, including a broken finger that might require surgery and an ongoing battle with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and his medical treatment has been central to his repeated attempts to be released from jail. In a hearing last month, attorneys for Worrell claimed that the DC jail dragged its feet in scheduling Worrell’s finger surgery and worsened his injury, and expressed concern that his medical needs as he begins chemotherapy will not be attended to.
Both the jail and prosecutors disagree, claiming that the surgery is elective and that the jail is equipped to handle his treatment.
This story has been updated with responses from the DC jail. <