With its spate of polar vortexes and record-breaking temperatures, this winter has been especially torturous. But for inmates housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., these brutal conditions have officially crossed into inhumane.
According to the New York Times, despite temperatures as low as 3 degrees Fahrenheit, over 1,600 inmates have spent the past week without heat or hot water.
More than a thousand inmates have been stuck in freezing cells at a federal jail on the Brooklyn waterfront that has had limited power and heat for at least this week, according to federal public defenders and leaders of the union representing the jail’s corrections officers.
“They just stay huddled up in the bed,” said June Bencebi, a case manager at the jail and the treasurer of the local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents about 500 corrections officers at the jail.
The jail, the Metropolitan Detention Center, houses more than 1,600 inmates and lies in an industrial swath near the waterfront in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Some inmates are linked to high-profile drug trafficking and terrorism cases, while others are comparatively anonymous New Yorkers awaiting trial.
The absence of power has been attributed to “a partial power outage,” according to the federal Bureau of Prisons, and is expected to be fully restored by Monday. However, in the interval, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced emergency supplies would be delivered Saturday night.
“New York City is sending trucks with hundreds of blankets and hand warmers to the Metropolitan Detention Center NOW and generators are being readied for transport,” he tweeted. “We’ve told the Federal Bureau of Prisons the supplies are coming—whether they like it or not.”
In response to these conditions, protesters—including rapper/Justice League NYC organizer Mysonne—descended upon the detention center on Saturday and refused to leave until services were fully restored.
During which, the formerly incarcerated artist called for solidarity under the #OccupyForHumanity hashtag:
He also documented the protests in order to raise awareness, garner support, and help spread the word.
Mysonne also reposted a video in which the warden, Herman Quay, appears to abandon the prison in the midst of this emergency, leaving his staff behind to clean up the mess. But that’s not the only transgression in the clip, as a staff member is seen slapping a phone out of a protester’s hand.
“It’s important that you understand the culture of how incarcerated individuals are often treated by prison staff,” the caption reads. “In their eyes we are less than human.”
Rapper Meek Mill, who recently launched REFORM—his own criminal justice reform organization with Jay-Z—took to Twitter to voice his own concerns over the conditions at the prison.
“I been thru this sleeping with 2 thermal sets on.. county clothes .... skully... county coat 4 blankets and 4 sheets because half of our window was broken out in the middle or January,” he wrote on Twitter. “The funny part is I used to get on the phone and not even speak on it.”
While others have taken to Twitter to demand answers and call for action:
That includes this thread by New York Times reporter Annie Correal who details the conditions inside the jail, as told to her by federal defender Deirdre von Dornum: