Brooklyn Boro

Storm rips roof, damages units at private Queens jail

August 6, 2020 David Brand
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Powerful winds ripped the roof and damaged at least two units at New York City’s only privately run jail Tuesday.

The 222-bed Queens Detention Facility, a federal jail run by private prison contractor GEO Group, is located in a warehouse near JFK Airport. In addition to the roof damage, large light fixtures crashed to the floor, electricity went out in some housing units and inmates from at least two units were evacuated to other parts of the building, according to one inmate.

A GEO Group spokesperson said the jail, which houses federal cooperating witnesses, “experienced some roof damage in two housing units as a result of tropical storm Isaias.”

“Electric power remains on at the Facility, and roofing repairs are expected to begin as early as tomorrow,” the spokesperson added. “Inmates in the two housing units that experienced storm damage have been safely moved to other housing areas while the repairs are completed.”

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GEO Group, the second largest private prison corporation in the United States, contracts with the U.S. Marshals Service to detain people at the Queens Detention Facility before their sentencing or while they await trial in federal court.

The jail made news in April after the release of its most famous inmate, Brooklyn rapper Tekashi 69, with a judge citing the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the facility.

Soon after his release, COVID-19 surged inside the detention center, with at least 39 inmates and 30 staff members testing positive for the illness. Six inmates contacted the Eagle in April to describe dangerous conditions inside the jail, where detainees sleep in bunk beds across open dorms and illness travels fast.

“Everyone’s coughing, sneezing on top of each other,” one inmate said in April. “We’re not practicing social distancing because you cannot do social distancing in this jail because everyone is so on top of each other.”

The conditions prompted inmates to file a class action lawsuit against GEO Group before dropping their complaint, reportedly because the plaintiffs were concerned the federal government would rescind favorable offers.

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