Lawsuit: Power Failure at Federal Jail a Humanitarian Crisis

Lawsuit: Power Failure at Federal Jail a Humanitarian Crisis

A fire at the federal jail on January 27 left the inmates, most of whom have not been convicted but are awaiting trial, in the cold and near darkness during a period in which New York City experienced record cold temperatures as low as 2 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 Celsius) due to the Polar Vortex weather pattern which claimed the lives of almost two dozen people across the United States last week.

Over 1,600 inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn have been without heat and hot water, and with limited electricity and communications for a week. Jamaal Bailey, who toured the facility Sunday and said there was no heat on the fourth floor.

If visitation is suspended again, the warden must provide a written explanation within 24 hours, Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall said.

"The electrical power at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facility at MDC Brooklyn was restored at approximately 6:30 p.m., Sunday evening". No devices were found.

The lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal court by the Federal Defenders of NY cited numerous disruptions caused by the outage that resulted from a January 27 fire at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

Lawyers for some of the Brooklyn inmates complained that they have not been able to speak to their clients.

Prior to her arrival, pepper spray was used on several people, including journalists and media personality Yandy Smith. It also refers to the conditions inside the jail as a "humanitarian crisis" and cites "guards wearing scarves and layers of clothing" while inmates "coped with "very cold' conditions in short-sleeve shirts and light trousers", according to the AP". Reports of broken pipes leaking water and freezing beds, sick inmates, some locked up in solitary confinement and mistreated by correction officers.

The lawsuit called for the appointment of a special master to inspect the lockup and for unspecified damages.

Inmates also reported smelling noxious fumes and seeing prison officers wearing masks even though none were supplied to inmates, the lawsuit said.

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Defense lawyers have not been able to visit inmates who were reporting little or no heat, little or no hot water, minimal electricity, near total lack of access to some medical services, or access to telephones, televisions, computers, laundry or commissary, it said.

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez says she visited the jail with other elected officials Saturday and the heat was uneven and sporadic.

Spilke said the temperature inside the building where Seguro-Genao is housed has reportedly been as low as 43 degrees Fahrenheit.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling on the federal Department of Justice to investigate the circumstances around inmates going without heat and electricity at a federal detention center in New York City. On Sunday, guards drove demonstrators attempting to enter the facility back with pushes and shoves.

Police and the Bureau of Prisons say no devices were found and no credible threat was identified.

The Federal Defenders lawsuit also accused the federal government of making misleading statements to the public and courts about conditions inmates faced.

Although power is scheduled to be restored on Monday, Patton said the issues of jail conditions reach far past this week.

In notes taken during a tour of the jail and shared with NBC News, Deirdre von Dornum, the attorney-in-charge of the Federal Defenders for the Eastern District of NY, described water leaking into inmates' beds from cracks in the ceiling, pitch black cells, and tepid water in the showers.

"This is a standard Trump Administration response talking out of both sides of their mouths and not worrying about the truth and not worrying about people's lives", NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. Through tears, she said her twin grandsons were anxious about their father, and that they had been denied entry into the facility earlier in the week. "They either failed to grasp or they failed to care about the severity of this humanitarian crisis".

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