New York Prison Without Heating During Polar Vortex

By Audrey Wallner

The power first went out the Thursday the 31st of January, and The detention center said the damages couldn’t be finished until Monday the 4th of February. Since there was only partial power, the prison went on lockdown that Thursday and remained on lockdown for 36 hours. With no light due to the partial power outage, the 1,654 inmates in the Metropolitan Detention Center were in complete darkness after sunset, which was a safety and health hazard. Not only was the power out, but the heater in prison was not working as well.

Several lawmakers that went inside the prison during this time said the heat was only in some areas of the detention center. The temperature in Brooklyn during the polar vortex was in the teens as a high and single digits as a low, and the temperatures were even lower at night. The people who went inside the prison also said that the detention center didn’t have warm water in the cells or showers, hot food or extra blankets, which the Federal Bureau of Prisons and jail officials announced that they did have all those supplies.
The New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio made a press announcement saying the city of New York sent blankets, generators, and hand warmers to the detention center. The inmates were also not the only ones who were in these freezing conditions; the employees also had to work in the cold temperatures. Most of the employees were working in coats, gloves, and other winter gear.
The condition of the prison and the health risks that the detainees had to suffer through, created a lot of pushback from families of inmates and other concerned citizens. After a week-long partial power outage, the Metropolitan Detention Center finally got their power and heat restored on Monday the 4th. This event ended in The Federal Defenders of New York, a public defender organization, filing a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons saying that the conditions and the shutdown of the legal visits for the inmates, was a violation of the inmates’ constitutional rights.

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