Several New York City defense lawyers have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the warden of Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, alleging they subjected prisoners to inhumane conditions during a dangerously cold week.
According to the lawsuit, conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center began to deteriorate after an electrical fire that resulted in a partial power outage on Jan. 27 . Some of the inmates had to go without computers, television or phones. Some areas at the Sunset Park prison only had partial heat during the brutally cold temperatures last week.
Deirdre von Dornum, who heads the federal defenders’ office in Brooklyn, was permitted to visit the jail on Friday and confirmed that some of the cells were unbearably cold. She said she witnessed some inmates wearing up to eight layers of clothes and others wrapped up in towels and blankets.
The Department of Justice said in a statement Monday that full power and heat was restored to the prison on Sunday in the evening.
The lawsuit accuses the prison of failing to take “sufficient steps to obtain temporary supplies of electricity or heat, or to repair the damage” and for issuing “misleading statements” to the public about what was going on.
“Defendants’ misstatements were made manifest when a Federal Defenders attorney was given access to the MDC — access which Defendants granted only following the issuance of an administrative order by the Chief Judge of this District,” the lawsuit adds. “That visitation revealed that the Defendants’ response to the fire has caused significant and serious deprivations of the constitutional rights of the MDC detainees.”
David E. Patton, the federal defenders’ attorney in chief, said in a statement that they’re requesting for the court to get involved immediately on behalf of the inmates detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center.