The District of Columbia’s agency that coordinates the activities of residents returning from imprisonment recently opened a major operation in one of the city’s gentrifying neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.
On Aug. 1, the Court Services and Offender Services Agency (CSOSA) for the District opened a new base of operations in the Anacostia Professional Building, located on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E. CSOSA is a federal agency created in 1997 to perform the offender supervision function for the District’s returning citizens and it works closely with the D.C. Superior Court and the U.S. Parole Commission. Studies have shown that about 60,000 District residents, nearly 9 percent of the city’s population, have a criminal record.
The agency has a budget of $140 million and nearly 1,000 employees, and supervises 15,000 individuals on probation, parole and supervised release each day.
“We are your neighbors,” Nancy Ware, director of the agency, said to a crowd of 75 for the opening ceremony in the Anacostia building’s parking lot. “We are proud to move into this building. In addition to our working quarters, there will be spaces for community partners.”
CSOSA will occupy two floors of the five-floor building and have offices on the other levels. A wide range of services will be available to returning citizens, such as rooms for music, art and dance therapies, anger management, and resume building/job hunting skills.
Non-profits such as D.C. Central Kitchen will also have spaces to work with culinary students, and the D.C. Department of Small, Local, and Disadvantaged Businesses will have a room to aid returning citizens become entrepreneurs. Other offices will house administrative and professional staff. For the most part, activities for returning citizens are free of charge.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) praised the new CSOSA facility saying, “This facility is what our returning citizens need.”
D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large), recognized as representing the District’s legislative branch, agreed with Norton.
“We should be proud of this fine building,” Bonds said. “We should show gratitude to our returning citizens and help them to become outstanding citizens here in this thriving, developing community.”
D.C. Superior Court Judge Milton C. Lee is the deputy presiding judge of the Criminal Division. Lee, before his appointment to the bench by President Obama in 2010, worked many years as a leading attorney for the D.C. Public Defenders Service and served as a magistrate for the Superior Court.
“This agency is providing service to the community,” Lee said. “CSOSA is meeting the members of the community where they are. We need this because most of the people who are incarcerated are coming home and they need services and they deserve the very best we can offer.”