• Nydia Velazquez preparing for MDC tour. Photo credit: Nydia Velazquez Twitter page
  • Nydia Velazquez and Jumaane Williams talk to crowd outside of MDC. Photo credit: Nydia Velazquez Twitter page
  • Demonstrators at Metropolitan Detention Center calling for officials to turn on power and heat. Photo credit: Nydia Velazquez Twitter page

Freezing cells, lack of food and other deplorable conditions in Brooklyn detention center raise questions on human rights violations, criminal prosecution

2 mins read

For almost a week, detainees in the Metropolitan Detention Center went unwashed, cold and hungry. According to reports from those inside, inmates developed colds, and those who were already sick were not receiving adequate care if any.

Another report by Assemblywoman Joanne Simone (D-NY) says that prison officials did indeed have blankets, they just did not distribute them.

On Sunday, Con Edison repair workers restored power, but the fallout from the ordeal will have longer effects. As families and legal representation have been granted visitation access again, hundreds now must assess the damages that occurred as men and women sat in a facility during below zero weather outside.

Rolanda West Spencer, Northeastern Illinois University professor who also develops and assesses re-entry curricula wrote a short and poignant perspective.

She says:

When I think about what it is to be in prison I remember it already being cold. No adequate bedding, no adequate clothing. The jumpsuits are made like medical scrubs so they hold no heat. The food is already cold, and not to mention the water.

In freezing temperatures such as we have experienced in the last week is nothing short of torture in that facility and the administration knows this but clearly doesn’t care.

I would be interested in knowing if anyone died during this time. If so, I would call that murder, or at the very least manslaughter. Many will not care because they are prisoners (or they believe they are prisoners, but they’re actually in a holding facility).

But we have to look at it like this … right now there are around 1000 people in that facility freezing to death, but they are only supposed to be there temporarily before they are arraigned or sentenced. This is not a prison, it is a detention center. So imagine being picked up for warrant or other innocuous things and then damn near freeze to death when all you needed to do was see the judge before you went home? They could also be there serving short sentences, but those are usually less than 90 days.

West Spencer brings up a point about the detention center that was corroborated with a statement made by New York City councilman Justin Brannan who said in a Twitter post: “. . . most at MDC have not yet been convicted of a crime but are pretrial detainees, either held on bail or remanded to custody. Otherwise prisoners there are serving brief sentences.”

Brennan also mentioned that those in MDC were serving short sentences for usually minor offences.

With accounts of the experiences of detainees and even, guards continuing to come forward, more harrowing stories are expected.

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