Members of the the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee are not happy with the “human rights violations” in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn during the coldest time of the year. They are planning to bring reform even if it means suing the federal government.
According to Committee Chairman Sen. Luis R. Sepulveda, D-Bronx, approximately 1,600 inmates were subjected to no heating and no lights following a fire in a switch gear room on January 27.
The fire knocked out power during the recent cold snap, but the Federal Bureau of Prisons says emergency lights were running and the jail’s boiler was unaffected by the outage.
Senate Democrats on the Corrections Committee maintain however that, not only did inmates endure freezing temperatures and dark cells, they were also deprived of email and visitation from family members and attorneys. The New York Times exposed the conditions in a recent article.
Committee members toured the federal administrative detention facility after there was public backlash against the treatment of inmates in the facility following media reports about conditions in the Brooklyn jail.
According to the committee members, many of the inmates are not convicted criminals, they are still awaiting trial. Whether or not if they are guilty Sen. Sepulveda said he believes inmates should still be treated like human beings.
Senator Jamaal Bailey, D-Bronx, a member of the committee, said he was appalled at the conditions of the facility.
“I wasn’t warm even though I was told the heat was on,” Sen. Bailey said about the conditions of the facility when he visited.
Sen. Sepulveda and Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, blame the “gross mismanagement” of the detention center on the federal government shutdown over border wall funding in January. Sen. Sepulveda and other lawmakers who stood with him were critical of the Trump Administration and revealed that they will be meeting with federal prosecutors along with touring all federal detention facilities across New York state. Sen. Sepulveda warned that lawsuits may be filed, depending on what they find at the facilities.
When the committee opened the floor for questions from the press, a reporter asked what have they been doing about this issue before the New York Times exposé, Sen. Sepulveda quipped back “What are we doing? We are bringing attention to this issue.”