As New York experienced freezing cold temperatures as low as two degrees, inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn have gone nearly a week without consistent heat, electricity, hot water, sanitation, proper medical attention, or the ability to contact their families. More than 1,000 prisoners held at MDC have been made to suffer in these inhumane conditions without extra clothing or blankets, shivering in the dark in their short-sleeves and banging on the windows in a desperate attempt to get the attention of people outside. Now, officials are promising that heat will be restored by Monday.
Haunting videos have been posted to Twitter where you can hear the prisoners banging on their windows to get the attention of the outside world. They have also reportedly been yelling “We’re freezing!” and “No hot food no hot water!” One prisoner told a federal defender that a guard took the temperature in one of the housing units, which are warmer than the cells, and found it was 34 degrees, the New York Times reported.
Inmates at #MDC who have not had heat, hot water or light in their cells since the power went out over a week ago have taken to yelling, screaming and banging on the narrow windows of their cells out of sheer desperation. The scene this afternoon was disturbing. pic.twitter.com/0QXdoTRef9
— Molly Crane-Newman (@molcranenewman) February 2, 2019
Protesters began to gather outside the prison to raise awareness of the prisoners’ plight and vow to remain until the heat returns. Finally, on Saturday night, New York City’s Emergency Management, at Mayor Bill De Blasio’s request, delivered blankets, hand warmers, and generators. The detention center, however, is not run by the city government. It’s a federal center run by the federal Bureau of Prisons.
.@nycemergencymgt just delivered generators, blankets and hand warmers to the Metropolitan Detention Center. The people inside have a right to dignity and safety and we won’t stand by while the Federal Bureau of Prisons fails them. NYC stands ready to do all we can to help. pic.twitter.com/5HGA3Co0G4
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) February 3, 2019
New York City Council Member Brad Lander visited the detention center with New York Democratic Reps. Nydia Velazquez, Jerry Nadler, and Carolyn Maloney on Saturday to assess the situation. “I am frustrated. This is America. In America, everyone has rights,” said Velazquez, who represents the district where MDC is located. “It’s a violation of their human rights to be kept in the cold and not to be able to talk to anyone.”
I visited the Metropolitan Detention Center (aka #SunsetParkGulag) along with @NydiaVelazquez @RepJerryNadler @RepMaloney and other local elected officials this afternoon. The lack of action by the Federal Bureau of Prisons is really a human rights violation. pic.twitter.com/tRAdOx0oOG
— Brad Lander (@bradlander) February 2, 2019
New York Attorney General Tish James reported to protesters Sunday afternoon that tepid water is now available and that the electrical system “will be restored, if not tonight, then tomorrow.” James added that on Tuesday, there will be a hearing before a federal court judge on the matter.
— Blair Imani is back (@BlairImani) February 3, 2019