Voters in the nation’s capital made history by electing a convicted murderer who is still behind bars for his crime to an Advisory Neighborhood Commission, or ANC, which counsels the local government on neighborhood issues such as garbage collection, police patrols, liquor licenses, zoning, and parking.
Joel Caston, 44, has been imprisoned for 26 years following a first-degree murder conviction in the August 14, 1994 killing of 18-year-old Rafiq Washington. Victim and shooter knew each other and there was some unspecified animus between them that cannot easily be divined from online court records. Caston, who was elected June 15, will reportedly be liberated from the D.C. Central Detention Facility this year or next.
Evidence at his 1996 trial demonstrated Washington “was shot and killed in front of the New China Carry Out … at the corner of 16th Street and Good Hope Road, S.E.” A witness saw Caston “run toward Washington, place a revolver inches from Washington’s body, almost touching Washington’s head, and fire ‘about five’ additional shots.’”
Despite his dark past, Caston was elected to the ANC for Ward 7, becoming the first incarcerated person to be elected to public office in the District of Columbia.
Caston has taken for-credit courses through Georgetown University, mentored young prisoners, practiced yoga, and edited a prisoner newspaper. On its website, the university slobbers all over Caston, calling him a “Prison Scholar” even though he’s not a penologist or a criminologist.
“I’m incredibly proud of Joel for his election,” said Georgetown Prisons and Justice Initiative Director Marc M. Howard, who has taught Caston. “Joel is brilliant, dedicated, compassionate and full of integrity.”
“He’s an inspiration to everyone who is lucky enough to know him,” Howard added. “And I’m counting down the days until he comes home, a free man, to share his talent and positivity with the world.”
Although he may not be a cop-killer groupie like Mumia Abu-Jamal-worshipping Marc Lamont Hill, the judgment of Howard, who fancies himself an original thinker, must be called into question because he apparently views the American criminal justice system through a Marxist prism.
Below follows a small sample of the radical drivel in his 2017 book, Unusually Cruel: Prisons, Punishment, and the Real American Exceptionalism.
In it Howard moans that compared to the United Kingdom and other democratic countries, “the U.S. is particularly harsh … in terms of how severely it punishes crime and how ruthlessly and unforgivingly it treats those who are (or have been) incarcerated.”
He argues that “the problems with the American criminal justice system go far beyond the innocent people it has trapped and mistreated, and that at core it is astoundingly and unacceptably punitive, vindictive, and unforgiving, while also based on underlying racial discrimination.”
To many leftists, especially in this era of wokeness, all prisoners of color are presumed to be victims put behind bars merely because of the color of their skin. In their perverse worldview, instead of being some of the worst of society, they represent potentially some of the best that society has to offer precisely because they defy societal norms by not obeying laws.
Then there’s the sick subculture of those who collect prison art – but I digress.
Returning to Caston, in a campaign video he sounded like a polished politician:
“My platform will be used to restore the dignity of incarcerated people, that we will no longer be judged by our worst mistake and to establish equality for both the male and the female populations. I will be your biggest advocate to make sure your voice and your concerns are heard.”
Caston triumphed over four other candidates, all of whom live with him in the jail, reportedly receiving 48 of the 142 votes cast. It was just last year that D.C. enacted legislation letting incarcerated convicted felons like Caston vote, something allowed by only two states –Maine and Vermont— according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
He now represents a small district known as 7F07, consisting of the jail, a women’s shelter, and an apartment complex in Southeast Washington. The position pays nothing. The term of office lasts two years.
Caston the murderer joins an exclusive club, managing to do the nearly impossible by getting elected while incarcerated.
According to a 2004 Slate article, Congressman Matthew Lyon of Vermont won re-election in 1798 in the midst of a four-month jail term for violating the Sedition Act. In 1851, anti-Catholic crusader Joseph Barker was elected mayor of Pittsburgh while serving a one-year sentence for inciting a riot. James Michael Curley, who eventually went on to become Boston mayor, member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, congressman, and Massachusetts governor, won an alderman’s seat in Boston in 1904 while doing time for taking a civil-service exam while impersonating a friend. In 1977, Boston City Council candidate Paul Ellison won a spot on the final ballot in a runoff election while serving a one-year prison term for grand larceny.
Overseas, Bobby Sands, the Provisional Irish Republican Army terrorist bomber, was elected to the British Parliament in 1981 while hunger-striking in prison. A handful of candidates in India, Taiwan, and Colombia have also been elected while behind bars.
More recently, Joseph D. Morrissey, originally a Democrat, was reelected behind bars as an independent candidate to Virginia’s House of Delegates in January 2015, a month after being sentenced to six months on a misdemeanor conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Morrissey is now a member of the Virginia Senate and is once again a Democrat.
If a prisoner had to be elected to office somewhere, it may as well have been Washington, D.C.
This is the same District of Columbia that voted for far-left race-mongering poverty pimp Jesse Jackson in the Democrat presidential primaries in both 1984 and 1988, the same District of Columbia that refuses to honor the basic civil rights of its residents, particularly their Second Amendment gun ownership rights. Even as the murder rate climbs in D.C., its local leaders treat gun owners like they’re mentally ill criminals, treating them as would-be spree killers and making them jump through hoop after hoop to acquire a gun for self-defense.
In February of this year, Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, embraced leftist pseudoscience in her fight against the Second Amendment as she unveiled a new program.
“Today we are recognizing the scourge of gun violence for what it is: a public health crisis that requires a whole-government approach focused on people and places in our community,” Bowser said. “Too many lives have been taken, too many families have been traumatized, and too many neighborhoods have been left broken.”
District of Columbia voters already vote for pro-criminal politicians like Barack Obama, John Kerry, and Michael Dukakis, along with unindicted criminals like Hillary Clinton, in more or less every election, so electing an imprisoned murderer is a logical enough next step.
Since the Twenty-third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect in 1961, allowing U.S. citizens residing in the District of Columbia to vote in presidential elections, the District has overwhelmingly voted each and every time for the candidate from the anti-law and order Democratic Party. According to official results, semi-brain-dead Joe Biden garnered 92.15 percent of the vote in 2020, compared to the 5.4 percent Donald Trump received.
And this federal enclave whose delusional leaders like to pretend the jurisdiction is a state complete with an elected “shadow” U.S. senator and a “shadow” U.S. representative, has long been pro-criminal quite apart from its electoral history.
Its well-deserved reputation for being soft on crime stretches back way before its embrace of the rioters and looters of Black Lives Matter and the defund-the-police movement. Defending residents’ property has long been an afterthought in D.C. One of the reasons so much lasting damage scarred the city during the 1968 civil unrest after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. was because officials were too lacking in intestinal fortitude to use force to put down the riots. This cowardice and bleeding-heartism infects the local government. For the most part, criminals in Washington have little to fear from the police. Remember that this is a city that elected crackhead and frequent lawbreaker Marion Barry mayor, a man who famously said in 1989: “Except for the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.”
Just days ago, no less than Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee himself said D.C.’s criminal justice system goes too easy on criminals and is itself contributing to rising crime rates.
“The justice system that we have right now is not functioning the way that it should,” Contee said July 22. “The courts are not open. That is a fact.” Throughout last year violent criminals “have not been disposed of” and are now at large, instead of behind bars.
“The real issue is, we have a vicious cycle of bad actors who do things, no accountability, and they end up back in community,” he said in what may end up being a case of career suicide.
Apparently, the D.C. jail isn’t functioning the way that it should, either. Caston, who will soon be back in the community, seems to be enjoying himself in the hoosegow.
“Here, I don’t feel like I’m in prison,” the jailbird who has done part of his sentence in federal prisons, told the local NBC affiliate in a human interest package in 2019. “This is the closest thing that I have for a community, and it’s in straight contrast to how it is in the [U.S. Bureau of Prisons].”
Caston was referring to Young Men Emerging, a mentorship program in which corrections officials pair long-imprisoned criminals like Caston with newly arrived ones so they can compare notes.
“Every day I’m mentoring ‘younger me;’ other individuals who were confused, couldn’t see themselves out of a dark corner,” Caston said. “I think that the work that I’m doing here, it provides me the platform to right my wrongs.”
The woke Thought Police are hard at work in the D.C. jail.
“At a recent group session, the crowd of male inmates and a handful of corrections officials talked about heady social issues as toxic masculinity and feminism, as well as more practical matters such as fiscal responsibility and budgeting,” according to the media outlet.
Caston said the program’s participants don’t use the word “inmate” because “it does something psychologically.”
That the word triggers something is clearly true.
Some call it denial; others, psychosis.