Washington, D.C., inmate becomes first incarcerated person in city to win elected office

A Washington, D.C., inmate on Tuesday became the first incarcerated person in the city to win elected office.

Joel Caston, 44, won the race for advisory neighborhood commissioner of district 7F07 in southeast D.C., where he’ll oversee the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter, new luxury apartments and D.C. Jail — where he is incarcerated.

D.C. Jail houses 1,400 male and female inmates, and the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter serves up to 175 women a night.

Advisory neighborhood commissioners are locally elected representatives who serve two year terms without pay and “were established to bring government closer to the people,” according to The seat has been vacant for 12 years, and while elections are usually held in November, a technicality prevented a winner from being announced last year.

Caston, who ran against four other inmates, received 48 of the 142 votes, according to Neighbors for Justice, an organization that helped facilitate the election.

Each inmate, with help from the Department of Corrections, made a video announcing their run. Caston in his video promised his fellow inmates, the women in the Harriet Tubman Shelter and their neighbors in the luxury apartments that he would work hard to advocate for all their needs.

“Imagine a single member district where every voice matters, every concern is heard and every person is valued,” Caston said.

Caston has been incarcerated since he was 18 after committing a felony offense, Julie Johnson, the founder of Neighbors for Justice told NBC News.

He wrote in his candidate survey that he has served as a worship leader and editor of a paper at the jail. He was also the founding mentor of the Young Men Emerging program and authored a criminal justice reform brief.

Caston “is a natural leader, and a kind, intelligent, and thoughtful individual,” Johnson said.

“This election gives hope to the residents of the jail, knowing they now have a representative who will give voice and visibility to the issues they are experiencing,” she said.


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