Hundreds of inmates at a federal jail in New York City have been held without power or electricity for over a week as temperatures plunged to record lows, The New York Times reports.
Inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn have been banging on surfaces in protest of the conditions they have had to endure for over a week. On Sunday, electricity to the jail was finally restored after an outage but the heating system, which is unrelated to the electrical failure, is still not fully functioning.
The jail has been placed on partial lockdown. The facility holds roughly 1,600 inmates.
Family members of some inmates gathered outside of the jail Sunday.
“They’re freezing in there,” former inmate Vincent McCrudden told The Times. “They’re stuck with their cellies. So it’s nice — it’s incredible — for them to know people are out there.”
The electricity and heat went out on January 27 after an electrical fire. That was just days before temperatures plunged to 2 degrees outside last week.
NY Gov calls for civil rights investigation:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for the Department of Justice to investigate whether inmates’ rights were violated at the jail. The facility is a federal jail so the state has no jurisdiction over it.
“No one in New York should live in fear that they may freeze to death alone in the dark,” Cuomo said in a statement. “These allegations are a violation of human decency and dignity. They also raise questions of potential violations of law.”
Lawsuit filed over ‘inhumane’ conditions:
A federal lawsuit filed by the Federal Defenders of New York accuses the Federal Bureau of Prison’s and the jail warden of violating inmates’ constitutional rights, NBC News reported.
The lawsuit calls the conditions at the facility “inhumane” and a “humanitarian crisis.”
"For example, one BOP attorney represented to a Federal Defenders attorney on two separate occasions that he was 'informed that the power outage did not impact the heating in the institutions' ... however, the power outage following the fire had a significant impact on MDC's heating system," the suit says.
The suit also says that the jail failed to provide medical services and legal visits to inmates during the outage.
"The Defendants' deprivation of MDC detainees' constitutional rights has caused and is causing irreparable harm to the Federal Defenders and its clients," the suit says.