Nydia Velázquez Wants Answers on Federal Inmates Suffering Through Polar Vortex with No Heat
Inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn suffered through the polar vortex largely without heat, power or the ability to communicate with their attorneys or families. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), who represents the district which houses the federal jail which holds more than 1,600 inmates, wants answers. "It's a violation of their human rights to be kept in the cold and not to be able to talk to anyone," she said. Joined by House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the pair led 26 of their House and Senate colleagues in writing letters to the Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice’s Inspector General asking probing questions about what they call a “humanitarian crisis.” The lawmakers are requesting an examination of MDC, including, among other issues, whether the institution followed its own emergency protocols during the outage, an examination of the facility’s chain of command, whether contractors lived up to the terms of their contracts in repairing the heating and ventilation systems and what medical care was provided during the crisis. “The lackluster response from the facility’s leadership cannot be categorized as anything less than inappropriate given the circumstances,” the lawmakers wrote. “Instead of offering proactive solutions and executing its emergency plan, MDC Brooklyn failed in its duties until public pressure and demands for answers reached a tipping point.” The calls for help were amplified by social media, where people posted videos of inmates banging on their windows en masse pleading for help. “The arguably abusive practices arising out of this incident, including the fact that detainees were kept on lockdown in near-freezing conditions, is unacceptable.” Read the full letter here.