Brooklyn Inmates Denied Access to Lawyers After Withstanding Freezing Temperatures

In early 2019, the Brooklyn-based federal jail Metropolitan Detention Center began experiencing serious issues with its power grid. On January 27, an electrical fire caused most of the grid to go down, forcing limited used of emergency power — and effectively leaving many of the jail’s 1,600 inmates without light or heat.

Temperatures rarely climbed above freezing, dipping as low as 2ºF. Inmates were forced to wrap themselves in multiple layers of clothing, blankets and towels to stave off the cold while power and heat remained absent for more than a week.

In response to the crisis, many male inmates were put into emergency lockdown. Family visits were canceled and hundreds of detainees were prevented from using telephones and computers to communicate with their loved ones. These restrictions also limited inmates’ ability to request necessary medications.

Additionally, the lockdown meant inmates were not allowed to meet with or contact their lawyers. This was especially problematic because the majority of people held at the Brooklyn jail had neither gone to trial nor been convicted.

Last week, power and heat was restored, according to officials. However, some reports from inmates indicate that heat is not yet available for everyone.

Outraged by how officials handled the power and heat outages and angered by the questionable decision to enact an emergency lockdown, civil rights protesters assembled outside of the jail to demonstrate. This helped draw the attention of the acting head of the Bureau of Prisons, Hugh Hurwitz, who recently toured the facility on behalf of the Department of Justice.

Unsurprisingly, a lawsuit has been leveled against Metropolitan Detention Center and the Bureau of Prisons for an inhumane response to the crisis. The suit argues that that officials were slow to address the outages and deliberately misrepresented the nature of the crisis to the public.

Perhaps the most substantial assertion made by the filing is that inmates’ Sixth Amendment rights were violated, due in no small part to the “near-total cancellation of legal and family” visits until February 3. And even then, such visits were still heavily curtailed.

This mistreatment of detainees in Brooklyn is merely the latest example of the routine and blasé violation of inmate rights in the United States.

Last year, major nationwide prisoner strikes were organized to protest a number of common civil rights abuses, including the exploitation of inmate labor. More recently, inmates in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers have taken to hunger strikes to protest mistreatment — and some have since been subjected to forced feeding.

Take Action!

It’s unacceptable to detain individuals, many who have yet to stand trial, and then force them to live in the dark and extreme cold. In no other setting would these conditions have been viewed as remotely tolerable.

And instead of taking the necessary actions to swiftly resolve this humanitarian crisis, the administration opted to unjustly deprive hundreds of inmates of their right to legal council.

Add your name to this Care2 petition and urge the Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice to do more than merely make promises. These agencies must take meaningful steps to not only hold those responsible for the neglect that created the power and heating outages, but also to ensure that it does not happen here nor anywhere else ever again!

Concerned about an issue? Want to raise awareness about an injustice? Join your fellow Care2 users by learning how to make your own petition and make your voice heard today!

 

Photo Credit: Eleanor W./Flickr

52 comments

Irene S
Irene S11 hours ago

Electric heating is inefficient and outdated. I hope they can get something better and less vulnerable, but I doubt it. Poor guys!

SEND
Leo C
Leo C18 hours ago

Thank you for sharing!

SEND
heather g
heather g23 hours ago

So cruel!

SEND
Glennis W
Glennis W3 days ago

Rotten BASTARDS Thank you for caring and sharing

SEND
Glennis W
Glennis W3 days ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

SEND
Glennis W
Glennis W3 days ago

Deplorable Thank you for caring and sharing

SEND
Glennis W
Glennis W3 days ago

Despicable Thank you for caring and sharing

SEND
Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan H3 days ago

thanks

SEND
Vincent T
Vincent T4 days ago

Thank you

SEND
Fran F
Fran F4 days ago

Appalling and unnecessarily cruel treatment, despite the unusually severe weather. Petition signed and shared on February 5, 2019.

SEND