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January 26, 2023
A 44 year-old inmate in Washington D.C. has become the first prisoner to be elected as the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for District 7F07, a seat that according to the Washington Post has been vacant since 2013.
Joel Caston, who has been incarcerated for 26 years, will now represent the voices in a small community of Washington D.C. Caston was arrested and convicted of the August 14, 1994 killing of fellow 18 year old, Rafiq Washington and is seeking early release under the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act. While in prison Joel Caston has spent much of his time on education and participated in the Georgetown Prisons and Justice Initiative as a Georgetown Prison Scholar. Joel Caston was not the only incarcerated candidate in this election, all five candidates were incarcerated.
Washington D.C. Council granted felons the right to vote in local and federal elections under the Restore the Vote Amendment Act of 2019 (DC B23-0324) which was passed on November 2nd, 2020. This act paved the way for incarcerated persons with felony convictions to have voting rights extended to them. The Department of Corrections facility allowed each of the five incarcerated candidates to have a short video recorded in which they made a statement on why they were running for the ANC 7F07 position.
In Joel Caston’s video message he asks voters to, “Imagine a single-member district where every voice matters, every concern is heard, and every person is valued.” Caston’s performance as ANC for his district will show if the 44 years he has spent in prison as a convicted murderer have taught him to value the life of every person so that he can best represent the people of District 7F07. Caston’s role as the newly elected ANC Commissioner would be to represent the neighborhood, in this case, the neighborhood of D7F07, before the District government on neighborhood matters (abc7NEWS).
Caston would be representing “the approximately 1,500 residents of the DC jail, the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter, and residents of Park Kennedy, the new apartment building across the street from the jail,” ABC reports. In an interview with WUSA9, Joel Caston was asked what he would bring up in his first ANC meeting to which Caston responded, “the first thing I’m going to do is listen”. According to the Washington Post, Caston wants to change the way incarcerated people are viewed by the public and help his community. The community of District 7F07 appears to be supportive of their newly elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and based on their voting trust that he will be the best voice for their concerns.
ARTICLE: BEBE BOUDREAU
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WASHINGTON POST