An incarcerated man has won, via election, the title of advisory neighborhood commissioner in southeast D.C., a historic first in the city.
Joel Caston, 44, has been imprisoned since he was 18 after committing an unnamed felony offense. Housed in the D.C. Jail, he has promised to work diligently on its occupants’ behalf.
Members of the advisory neighborhood commission, reportedly created to “bring government closer to the people,” serve without pay for two years. The seat in District 7F07 — which is home to the D.C. Jail, the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter and residents of newly-built luxury apartment buildings — has been vacant for 12.
Caston has pledged to represent the diverse interests of them all.
According to an NBC News report, each candidate — a list that included four other inmates — made a video announcing their run for the seat. In his video, Caston said, “Imagine a single-member district where every voice matters, every concern is heard, and every person is valued.”
Asked in his candidate survey why he wants to serve in the role, Caston’s response was, “Dr. King once stated, ‘Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great. Greatness is determined by service.’ I couldn’t concur with the patriarch of the civil rights movement more. I believe that service is the duty of mankind; thus, I’ll be honored to serve as an ANC Commissioner.”
He described himself as “a youth advocate, author of criminal justice reform and an investment curriculum titled Currency Catchers. I have strong communication skills – I’m fluent in English and Spanish. I have a good reputation with both staff and my peers, and I intend to utilize these skills to be a voice for the voiceless.”
,During his time incarcerated Caston has served as a Christian worship leader, chief editor of its Inside Scoop publication and the founding mentor of the Young Men Emerging program.
Julie Johnson, its founder, said “the 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.”