Rebellion Against System: DC Jail 1972
These images are related to a rebellion that occurred at the old DC jail located at 19th Street and Independence Avenue SE on October 11, 1972.

Prisoners took eleven hostages, including Corrections Director Kenneth Hardy and demanded juveniles be housed separately from adults, decent food be provided and overcrowded conditions be addressed among other demands.

The Washington Post quoted one prisoner, “We remember what happened to George Jackson, we remember what happened to Jonathan Jackson, his brother. We remember what happened at Attica…”

Another said, “This is a revolutionary act, man. This is an act of rebellion against the system. This is an act for respect and for us to be treated like men, not like animals in a cage. This is a positive action.”

After an emergency court hearing and negotiations that involved a number of city officials, an agreement was reached to improve conditions and grant amnesty to all involved. All hostages were released and no one suffered serious injury.

Shortly thereafter the Committee for the Survival of DC Prisoners (CFS of DCP) was formed to attempt to insure that no reprisals were taken and promises of improved conditions were implemented. The group held a number of demonstrations and picket lines to bring attention to the plight of prisoners some 900 of whom were crowded into a 100 year old jail meant for half that number.

Despite the promises, the U.S. attorney indicted 14 of the prisoners involved in the uprising and obtained convictions for most. They received varying additional prison time ranging from 1-10 years.

Commissioner Hardy was replaced shortly after the uprising and testified in court that the uprising was a protest, not an escape attempt. Nevertheless, his signed promise of no reprisals was ignored.

Promises of better conditions also went unfulfilled, with the D.C. Courts ending up overseeing prisoners and at one point ordering prisoner releases in order to alleviate overcrowding. A replacement jail was built in 1976.

However, due to overcrowding, the old jail continued in use for several more years before being torn down. The replacement jail continued under court supervision for its deplorable conditions. There is now talk again of a new replacement jail.

See sets "Tear Down the Walls 1973," "DC Jail Uprising Trial 1974" and "DC Women's Detention Center 1973" for related images.

This set of images was scanned from original prints. These images were not part of the original Washington Area Spark Collection. They have been added to help give context to the photo sets “Tear the Walls Down 1973” and “DC Jail Uprising Trial 1974.” The images in this set are Courtesy DC Public Library, Star Collection, © Washington Post, All Rights Reserved.
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