The federal Manhattan Detention Center, located in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, is locked-down and prison officials have suspended family and outside contact with inmates.
For nearly a week the roughly 1650 male, and female, prisoners have been living in the dark and without heat. Family members, inmate lawyers, activists, and local, state and national representatives have demanded answers.
So far, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has said power and heat won’t be restored until Monday when the electrical contractor is due back.
In New York, temperatures have dipped into the single digits. It’s been reported that temperatures inside the prison have fallen below 50 degrees.
According to the Bureau of Prisons, many of the people held there are pretrial. It’s been noted that before trial and adjudication, defendants are presumed innocent. Yet, women and men being held have been banging on windows in a cry for help. Some are concerned that people may die.
So far, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has said power and heat won’t be restored until Monday when the electrical contractor is due back. Then a statement was released Saturday night:
It’s noted the BOP does not mention that there’s no heat.
Here’s what you need to know:
No Electricity, Heat or Hot Water For a Week Has Had Inmates Banging on Windows & Shining Flashlights to People in the Street
“I am outside of the Metropolitan Detention Center where prisoners are without heat. The banging noise is them protesting for all of us to hear. They are without heat for days. This is in BROOKLYN.”
Inmates can be heard banging on windows and can be seen flashing lights. It’s reported prisoners have stuffed “sheets and blankets into vents to keep the frigid air out of their cells.”
No power, no heat, no cooked food, no hot water in the 14-story jail beginning a week ago has led to demands for answers to basic questions including ‘what happened’ and ‘what is being done’ to correct what some say is inhumane and unconstitutional.
It’s reported that “heat has been an ongoing issue at MDC, family members of people locked up there said today. It’s also been an ongoing issue at the city’s own jails on Riker Island, acc to @BklynDefender, which collects warm things for clients there,” The City reported.
The New York Justice League called for people to call the prison and “demand the heat be restored immediately in the Brooklyn Detention Center. No one should be held in these conditions.”
“Hear that? That’s the sound of desperate people who are cold, hungry, and trapped. This is the only way they can make themselves heard. We hear you.”
“This is the women’s block at #MDCBrooklyn right now. Human beings in dungeon conditions, pleading for human rights, hoping to live. Hear them. Come here and join their fight!”
The Federal Prison Has Shut Down Contact Between Inmates & Familes
Rosa Goldensohn, a reporter for The City, has been reporting on the situation for a week. She said the BOP has not responded to a request for information. (The BOP has similarly not yet responded to this reporter.)
Over the past several days, family members and activists have been outside the detention center. Saturday, once the facility said inmate visits were suspended, family members were turned away, many worried and frightened for their loved ones inside. Protests have been held nightly. And Saturday night was no exception.
But things turned chaotic with some alleged violence against protestors, many of whom are family members, by federal prison officials.
It’s been confirmed in a BOP statement that with power out, phone lines are also out hence the lack of ability of inmates to call family and friends.
“The people with family there have no information. Imagine being in 30° weather INDOORS? And who knows how cold it got w the polar vortex. People may likely be deathly ill or soon to be. Beyond inhumane, it’s torture,” one person there tweeted.
“Freezing temperatures+no electricity! We’re 1 of the richest countries with all the resources. Where is Red Cross? Where is a plan? The contractors have gone home and they said electricity will come back Monday. That’s over a week with no heat or electricity. UNACCEPTABLE.”
Late Saturday night, Rep. Jerry Nadler said the BOP will permit “legal” visitation to resume.
Federal Prison Officials Had Refused Help, Mayor & Elected Officials Said Saturday. By Nightfall, the City Had Brought Blankets, Hand-Warmers & Generators
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio said early Saturday that the federal government was refusing aid.
“The Bureau of Prisons is refusing our help, even as their incompetence is on full display for the world. The human beings inside the MDC deserve better and they need it NOW
Goldenshon reported that an “elected official who spoke (with) jail staff said he sensed no urgency on the part of BOP. They would not say why the city’s Office of Emergency Management Staff could not come in.”
Goldenshon reported that the official was told: “that contractors working on the power situation would not be in this weekend.”
By nightfall, the City had brought in hand warmers, blankets, and generators.
But there are reports that prisoners have not be given those supplies and with leaks in the building reported since Friday, bedding is soaked for some.
The Justice League tweeted about the Bureau of Prisons statement.
“… denying everything that elected officials saw themselves today. We hear the people banging on the windows. We saw videos from inside.”
“We were there as family members were denied entry during visitation hours. This is an EMERGENCY Call 718-840-4200 and let them know this is wrong! We aren’t going anywhere #UntilThereIsHeat”
The New York Daily News spoke to an employee who works in the jail’s medical center. Rhonda Barnwell said the building has no power and is using a generator to operate: “They’re just waiting for a disaster to happen. There’s only heat in the afternoons since we’ve been complaining today …it’s been really bad… it’s been very dangerous.”
She told the paper inmates have been suffering.
It was reported that temperatures are around 49 degrees inside the facility.
Rep. Nadler tweeted just moments ago that hand warmers, blankets, and generators are on their way to the prison. He does not indicate how, when or why BOP relented, but said, “Just because you ’re incarcerated does not mean that we don’t treat you with dignity & respect. Heat & hot water is not a luxury.”
Officials Are Demanding Action. The Bureau of Prisons Says a Contractor Won’t be Back Until Monday
Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York said the situation at the prison is cruel and illegal.
“This is inhumane and a violation of the detainees’ constitutional rights. The Bureau of Prisons needs to fix this immediately.”
Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the conditions are indicative of a failed prison system.
“This is a horrific example of how mass incarceration is a moral scourge on American society & should be addressed immediately.”
Rep. Nadia Valazquez has been advocating for the prisoners since it first became clear that there was no lights nor heat.
“…just called the Director of BOP. He agreed the situation is unacceptable and that the contractor had left MDC. Given how badly MDC is handling, he agreed to get BOP Regional Director involved. We stressed need to get detainees with medical needs moved.”
“After visiting MDC again today it is clear the officials there have disregarded the basic human rights of inmates,” she wrote. “This appalling situation needs to be fixed and I will continue pressuring BOP for immediate action.”
Hugh Hurwitz is the BOP’s acting director.
Nadler, Chair of the House Judiciary, says what’s happening is unacceptable.
“I will be demanding that BOP get the contractors back on site immediately. The lack of urgency in addressing this crisis is inhumane. I will be talking to Acting BOP Administrator Hurwitz this afternoon. This is unacceptable.”
Prisoners Have Already Begun Court Proceedings Against BOP & One Inmate, Nxivm Cult Leader Keith Raniere, Wants Out of Freezing Jail
Keith Raniere, the leader of an upstate New York sex cult called NXIVM has filed court documents asking to be released from MDC given the conditions.
The New York Post reported court papers, filed Friday, read: “MDC has been without heat, electricity, hot water, commissary or warm food since January 27, 2019, following an apparent fire in the institution.”
Raniere is being held in the MDC Sex Offender Unit.
It’s also being reported that a U.S. District Court judge has ordered the Bureau of Prisons to a hearing Tuesday to explain why, by then, prisoners have been without electricity or heat for nearly 10 days.
“…US Dist. Judge Analisa Torres has ordered the US BOP to appear at 11AM on 2/5/19 for a PUBLIC EVIDENTIARY HEARING about the recent conditions at MDC Brooklyn, including lack of heat and electricity.”
Rapper & Activist For Prison Reform Meek Mill Shared His Experiences in Solidarity With the Prisoners
“I been thru this sleeping with 2 thermal sets on.. county clothes ….skully..county coat 4 blankets and 4 sheets because half of our window was broken out in the middle or January .. the funny part is I used to get on the phone and not even speak on it.”
The Philly rapper spent five months in prison for a parole violation on a case that was vacated by the DA. Mill has since become an activist for prison reform.
“That was just normal …anybody who was ever locked at ‘house of corrections”knows about being locked a cell on a 100 degree night with no air conditioning! Real slavery type stuff… I was there I know they don’t care!”