Inmates were reportedly locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day during outage in Brooklyn jail that left them without electricity and heat

  • Inmates were locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day during an outage that lasted for more than a week in a Brooklyn federal jail, according to a New York Times report.
  • Inmates told The Times that guards at the Metropolitan Detention Center reportedly didn’t know what left the facility without heat or electricity for several days, and didn’t provide their prescription medication or extra blankets.
  • One inmate said the lockdown procedure kept them him in a cell for what felt like three consecutive days.

Inmates were locked in their cells for up to 23 hours a day during an outage that lasted for more than a week as temperatures plummeted in a federal jail in Brooklyn, according to The New York Times.

Though lockdown tactics are usually reserved for officials’ safety during an emergency, inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) told The Times they were locked in their cells for days on end after a fire caused an electricity outage in late January.

An “inmate handbook” from the New York City Department of Correction says that inmates won’t be locked into their cells during the daytime for longer than two hours within a 24-hour period, except “when necessary for the safety and security of the facility or the Department.”

MDC, which holds more than 1,600 inmates, was left largely without heat for days on end during the coldest days in winter, as a polar vortex froze the northeast in late January and early February.

The new, disturbing details in the Times report come just over a week after activists, lawyers, and lawmakers condemned the conditions over social media, staging protests outside the prison as inmates flashed lights and banged on the windows of the facility.

Read more: Lawmakers are calling for action after thousands of inmates in a Brooklyn jail went without electricity and heat during the polar vortex

Though the fire on January 27 knocked out some lights in the jail, there had been heating problems throughout the facility since mid-January, jail employees said in a court hearing, according to The Times.

Days after power was restored, the Department of Justice asked its internal watchdog to investigate the Bureau of Prisons’ response to the outage from the Bureau of Prisons. A number of top Democrats representing New York in Congress also spoke up, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Jerry Nadler, who condemned the torturous conditions.

Gillibrand said on Twitter the situation was “inhumane and a violation of the detainees’ constitutional rights,” adding that “The Bureau of Prisons needs to fix this immediately.”

After visiting the facility while it was still without heat, City Council member Jumaane Williams called the conditions “obscene and unconscionable.”

“This is an issue of human rights abuse, and people are paying the price for this massive and inexcusable failure,” Williams wrote.

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