DC inmate elected to public office

DC inmate elected to public office
© Getty Images

A Washington, D.C., man who has been in prison for the past 26 years was elected this week to the city’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), likely making him the first incarcerated person to be chosen for a seat in the local government. 

The ANC announced in a tweet Tuesday that 44-year-old Joel Castón had won the election to a vacancy on the commission for the area in Ward 7, located in the lower northeastern portion of the nation’s capital. 

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The seat, which has been vacant since it was created in 2013, includes the D.C. correctional facility where Castón is imprisoned, as well as a women’s shelter and a new luxury apartment complex, according to The Washington Post

Castón, who has remained in prison since he was convicted of fatally shooting an 18-year-old man, told the Post in a Wednesday interview that by being elected to the board responsible for making recommendations to the D.C. Council on neighborhood issues, he hopes to change people’s perceptions of incarcerated individuals. 

“My goal is to be a voice for the voiceless, and to listen and listen well,” Castón told the news outlet. “People are feeling like, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’” 

“I can be an asset to the community,” he added. 

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The Post reported that during his time behind bars, Castón has served as a Christian worship leader, as well as a financial literacy instructor and the founding mentor of the Young Men Emerging program. 

The newly elected local official has also written a memoir and taught himself Arabic and Mandarin, according to the Post. 

Castón said he expects to be released in roughly six months from the D.C. Jail, where he has spent more than four years of his sentence, which the Post noted has made him one of the longest-tenured inmates at the facility. 

The man’s win comes after he was initially disqualified in November because his voter registration showed his previous address in Ward 8, instead of the jail’s Ward 7 address. 

Castón, who beat out four other candidates for the seat, told the Post that he plans to live within the ward once he is released.