Weekend Read: “Before Relisha Rudd went missing, the 8-year-old longed to escape D.C.’s homeless shelter”

The Washington Post‘s Theresa Vargas, Emma Brown, Lynh Bui and Peter Hermann look deeply at the disappearance of eight-year-old Relisha Rudd and the safety net that should have kept her safe.

In the story they ask: Who failed Relisha?

It has been more than a month since Relisha’s family has seen her and more than a week since the police search for her became a “recovery mission.” People who knew her now talk about her in both the present and past tense, revealing in the same breath their hopes and fears.

But whether Relisha is alive or dead, the instability of her life — evictions from apartments where gunfire was common, weeks at motels and then months at the homeless shelter with a troubled mother and three brothers — put her on the radar of school administrators, social workers, shelter employees and volunteers, who make up the safety net for the city’s vulnerable children.

Read the full story here.

What We’re Reading: New Deli Commemorates June Grace Lim

Washington City Paper reports that a new restaurant called Heaven & H has opened at the same address where June Grace Lim was murdered outside her deli in June 2012. But rather than hide Lim’s shooting death, the restaurant pays tribute to Lim’s impact on the surrounding community with its name, menu items named for Lim, and a mural with her face.
Read more

WAMU Looks Back at the Crack Wars

We are almost a generation removed from the worst of the District’s crack epidemic, but the city still bears scars from the violence of the 1980s and ‘90s. WAMU looks back in a five-part series that is well worth your time:

Washington, D.C. is in the midst of major change — its population is growing, new high-rise buildings can be seen across the city, and the homicide rate is at historic lows. But 25 years ago, dealers sold crack at hundreds of open-air drug markets, addiction swept across entire neighborhoods, and the city came to be known as the “Nation’s Murder Capital.” In this five-part series, WAMU 88.5 explores the legacy of that era and how D.C. continues to grapple with an epidemic that affected families, neighborhoods, politicians, policemen, and schools.

Listen to the entire series here.

Weekend Read: Morgue Photos

The Washington Post this weekend writes about a DC practice which allows families to purchase post-autopsy photos of their deceased.

It’s unusual, but not unheard of, for medical examiners to provide families with photos of departed kin, although most often it’s done only after the autopsy, the police investigation and court proceedings are complete. Practices differ across the country: As a rule, Maryland does not release photos to relatives or to anyone else; Virginia does, free, under tightly controlled circumstances.
Read more

Weekend Read: A Mother’s Grief

The Washington Post reports on the stabbing death of Candance Reed who was killed on November 15 outside of a club in the 5300 block of Georgia Avenue NW after a dispute at her friend’s birthday party.

The story follows the experiences that Reed’s mother, JoAnn Lee, has had in the past week since her daughter’s death.

JoAnn Lee carries a folder with pictures of her daughter. Candance Reed with a red shirt and pigtails posing with her second-grade class in Lorain, Ohio. Candance at her senior prom at Anacostia High School. Candance visiting Las Vegas. Candance posing with her dog Sampson.
Read more

Weekend Read: Counting those who Survive

A Washington Times report this week argues that D.C.’s declining murder rate is not an indication of the city’s drop in violent crime and shootings.

The story also highlights a divide in D.C. between neighborhoods that are saturated with shootings and crime, and the ones that aren’t.

When the murder rate and shooting statistics from Chicago and Washington, D.C. are compared, it would seem on the surface that D.C. is more fortunate than Chicago. However, other statistics and some real life events tell a different story. It is the story of a divided city, official Washington, the “City of Marble and Glass,” and the District of Columbia, “Dodge City” where the bullets still fly and the violence never ends…
Read more

Weekend Read: Lanier: “Every murder counts just as much as every other murder.”

MPD Chief Cathy Lanier spoke at the American Bar Association this week, addressing DC homicide investigations.

Reports the Associated Press:

Lanier spent most of the session explaining her management style and steps she has taken to reduce the homicide rate, including investing in technology, building sources in the community and expanding the department’s social media presence, since taking over as chief in 2007.
Read more

Weekend Read: Raasheem Jamal Rich, D.C.’s First Homicide Victim of 2013, Served 20 Years for 1990 Murder

The Washington Post reports that Raasheem Jamal Rich, fatally stabbed Jan. 10, was once himself a killer in 1990.

Rich spent two decades in prison, during which the number of people killed in D.C. plummeted. His conviction two decades ago, and his violent death this year, connect two wildly different moments in the history of crime in the District.
Read more

Weekend Read: D.C. Murder Count On Pace For Record Low

The Associated Press reports on the falling homicide rate in the District, on track to be the lowest in half a century:

The crack epidemic that began in the 1980s ushered in a wave of bloodletting in the nation’s capital and a death toll that ticked upward daily. Dead bodies, sometimes several in a night, had homicide detectives hustling between crime scenes and earned Washington unwelcome monikers such as the nation’s “murder capital.” At the time, some feared the murder rate might ascend to more frightening heights.

But after approaching nearly 500 slayings a year in the early 1990s, the annual rate has gradually declined to the point that the city is now on the verge of a once-unthinkable milestone. The number of 2012 killings in the District of Columbia stands at 78 and is on pace to finish lower than 100 for the first time since 1963, police records show.

Read the full story here.

You can find more Weekend Reads here.

Getting Out the Vote at DC Jail

Today is election day, and the AP has a story about an effort to help those currently held at DC jail vote:

While it seemed ordinary, the voting that went on at the D.C. jail and a facility where women are housed next door is unique. Most states and the District of Columbia bar prisoners serving time on a felony conviction from voting. But inmates awaiting trial or serving a sentence for a misdemeanor, an estimated 700,000 people nationwide, are allowed to vote as long as they aren’t barred by a past felony conviction.

Most states, however, don’t actively help these people vote, said Marc Mauer, the executive director of The Sentencing Project, a Washington-based group that advocates for sentencing reform and alternatives to prison.

In the vast majority of jails there’s absolutely nothing being done to make that happen,” Mauer said.

Read the whole story here.