Inmates in the Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal jail in Brooklyn, spent nearly a week in cramped cells that had no electricity and were frigid cold. Vents in the ceiling were stuffed with clothing or cardboard to keep out icy air. Those were the conditions described by elected officials who visited the jail on Saturday, where more than 1,600 inmates have been largely confined to their freezing, dark cells since an electrical fire partially cut off power to the jail, prompting management to cancel visits and place inmates on lockdown, reports the New York Times. “The situation is really, really a nightmare,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), whose district includes the jail. “It is like living in a closet without lights.” Electricity was restored Sunday night, but problems with the heating system, which are unrelated to the electrical failure, remain. While parts of the jail have heat, many cells do not, the Times said in a later report.
Before power returned, Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), denounced what he called a “total lack of urgency and concern” by the warden, Herman Quay, and jail management. Inmates who needed electrical power for sleep apnea machines were at risk of a stroke, Nadler noted. During the week, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said, inmates had hot water for showers and hot water in the sinks in the cell. Essential personal hygiene items and medical services were provided. Many family members said they had not heard from relatives for a week and were not given any information when they called the jail. They learned about what was happening through Twitter and news reports.