Heat complaints persist at Sunset Park jail
Detainees inside Sunset Park’s Metropolitan Detention Center continue to report a lack of heat and proper medical care inside the facility, advocates say, even after the Bureau of Prisons and Department of Justice said the heat and electricity were back on.
David Patton, the executive director and attorney-in-chief of the Federal Defenders of New York, said detainees inside MDC’s Unit 62 in particular are still reporting heating problems during a press briefing organized by Councilmember Carlos Menchaca on Monday afternoon. MDC had gone without heat and power for a week, prompting protests from family members, activists and local elected officials.
Patton said attorney visitation was quickly cancelled Sunday after family members, reporters and advocates attempting to enter the jail were pepper sprayed by BOP officials. Visitation was cancelled again on Monday after a bomb threat was called into the facility.
Attorney visitation resumed as of 5 p.m. Monday evening, said defense attorney Alex Anthony, who was demonstrating outside the jail. The BOP also said family members were allowed to enter at 5 p.m.
“These problems are long standing, and I’m glad there’s an appetite to stay with this,” Patton said.
During the press briefing, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez said she is drafting a letter to the DOJ inspector general asking the department to “assess how this breakdown in leadership happened and why an emergency response to this crisis was not activated.”
“My focus is going to be not just determining how this happened but how to determine this never happens again,” she said, adding that the lack of urgency was part of broader systemic issues at the Metropolitan Detention Center. “I think there is a culture at MDC that is contributing to this problem.”
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler said he was struck by the “absolute lack of urgency of caring on the part of the leadership of the prison.”
Even after the jail’s broken boiler was repaired and running at 190 degrees, the air blowing into several cells remained cool he said Monday.
“The heating system has never been adequate for this building,” Nadler said.
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