The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Washington, D.C. Jail:
Death Factory

Nov 13, 2023

Antonio Dockery, 29, was found dead in his cell in the D.C. jail’s Central Cell Block on October 23 after only several weeks in the jail. In his too-short life, D.C. police had arrested him several dozen times. For example, last December, they arrested him for sleeping in a doorway in a shopping area where he was banned for allegedly harassing people. His final arrest was for stealing a few items in a shoe store. He was clearly someone who needed mental health care and money, but he had no access to either.

He is also the most recent of five people to die in the D.C. jail so far this year, and the most recent of 69 people to die there since 2009. Many had generally similar situations. Giovanni Love, 21, hanged himself in his cell in September 2022. Raynell Hawkins died of a toxic combination of an opioid and four other drugs while in the jail in January 2022.

Last year the city government forced the jail to start posting a press release after each person’s death, giving information like the cops’ reason for their arrest and a brief description of how they died. And the jail promises to investigate each situation.

But the overall problem needs no investigation. Public mental health care is broken, understaffed, and underfunded after decades of cuts. Police arrest people in need, and all too often they die in jail. More than 1,000 people die in local jails in the U.S. every year.

This capitalist society has money for many things, like weapons for U.S. proxy wars, bailouts and subsidies for big banks and corporations, and fat government contracts for big businesses. But capitalist society won’t spend a dime for working class people, often black, who don’t get the help they need.