Federal Jail in NYC Without Heat, Power for Days

Elias Hubbard
Февраля 4, 2019

In a statement Sunday, officials said inmates had hot water for showers and in their cells' sinks, and they estimated power would be fully restored by Monday. They said all recreational activities as well as visits from lawyers and family members have been canceled.

Inmates at a federal jail in Brooklyn have suffered for days without heat or power during a wintry cold snap, according to lawyers and US lawmakers who rallied outside the jail on Saturday demanding the problems be fixed and ill inmates moved. A notice on the jail's website said all visits have been suspended until further notice.

Velazquez said she asked to speak to inmates but she was not allowed to speak with them and could not see them inside their cells, although she heard them.

Velazquez visited the jail Friday after seeing news reports that hundreds of inmates there have spent the past week largely without heat, power or the ability to communicate with their attorneys or families.

Attorney General Letitia James called the circumstances "unacceptable, illegal, and inhumane" in a statement sent to CBS2.

New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio posted on Twitter the Federal Bureau of Prisons was refusing the city's help "even as their incompetence is on full display for the world".

Officials with the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents corrections officers at the jail, confirmed the lawyers' accounts of the jail conditions in interviews with the Times. "They just stay huddled up in the bed", June Bencebi, case manager at the jail, told the Times. Union officials did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

On Sunday, an inmate was able to call through the window of his cell, which faces out to the street, to his mother below.

Telephone calls to the jail went unanswered on Saturday, but it said in a statement that power had been affected in one building and that fix work should be completed on Monday.

"It's only heat in the afternoon since we been complaining today, but for the last couple of days we been working with coats, hats, scarves", said employee Rhonda Barnwell.

On Thursday, federal defenders filed an emergency motion to remove Dino Sanchez, an inmate from Brooklyn who was suffering from asthma in the severe cold, according to the Times. The court papers say that jail officials have taken no steps to provide Sanchez with "an oxygen mask, clothing, blankets, or access to a habitable location that will mitigate his health risks". "It's a violation of their human rights to be kept in the cold and not to be able to talk to anyone". "Inmates who have medical conditions can't read the instructions on the medications". Spilke said his only information about clients at the detention facility, including Seguro-Genao, has been second- or third-hand.

Since then, at least some of the more than 1,600 men and women incarcerated at the jail have suffered in near-freezing temperatures and in darkness after the sun goes down while locked in their cells for 23 hours a day, according to the court filings. "They've basically been incommunicado from their attorneys since the 27th, which is when the electrical fire happened".

The bureau said air temperatures in the units "were within acceptable ranges" on Saturday. "They don't have access to the commissary to buy an extra sweatshirt".

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