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Inmates left to freeze in record-low temperatures

by Bridgette Babb - Copy Editor
Tue, Feb 12th 2019 10:00 pm
fight for human rights A group of protesters gathered in front of the downtown Brooklyn prison (above) to fight against inhumane conditions in the prison. Prisoners could be heard screaming for help from inside the prison. With help from the protestors, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons finally decided to get involved in the matter.
fight for human rights A group of protesters gathered in front of the downtown Brooklyn prison (above) to fight against inhumane conditions in the prison. Prisoners could be heard screaming for help from inside the prison. With help from the protestors, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons finally decided to get involved in the matter.

The recent polar vortex brought about temperatures New York State has not endured in over a decade. Every news station urged viewers to stay bundled and to not go outside unless absolutely necessary. In the midst of all this, one Brooklyn prison lost all its power. Due to the desperation of it’s inmates, you were able to hear their pleas for help from outside the prison.

The Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY went several days without electricity and heat due to the power outage. According to CNN, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) are conducting an investigation around the officials who handeled the matter.

Many people was made aware of the harsh conditions through journalist Shaun King, who posted a video of inmates banging on the walls to grab people’s attention. His Instagram post on Friday, Feb. 1 read, “Oh my God. At the damn federal jail right here in Brooklyn, where temperatures are BELOW FREEZING, the heat and electricity have been turned off since MONDAY.”

The video showed the rattling of every cell window, and according to King, the temperature a guard took that day was 33 degrees. Immediate actions from the community, family members and local New York celebrities like Love and Hip Hop’s Yandy Smith were put in place. The story was shared on social media accounts, with news stations picking up the story as well.

The warden of the jail, Herman E. Quay, denied allegations of any issues in the jail at first. The statement released to the New York Times from his office read, “Inmate housing units have been minimally impacted.” According to CNN, BOP had said that the heat to the building was provided by a boiler, which wasn't effected by the power outage and inmates had hot water in showers. However, interviews with some of the current inmates refuted both statements and brought about an impending lawsuit on the Bureau.

“It’s cold as hell,” inmate Sean Daughtry told his lawyer. He also told his lawyer that he could see the mist leaving his lips from the small sliver of light coming into his cell. Another inmate, Kaemar Wilson, spoke of his suspicions with his fiancee.

“Something weird is going on,” Wilson said in a message. “I’m frustrated. I can’t figure it out, but nothing is working properly.

“Inmates spoke of noticing things were not working, but were never given an explanation for it. Wilson spoke about the building ‘feeling like a freezer.’ To keep their hands warm, they filled a can with water, lighting it with a contraband lighter and passing it around.

Head of the local chapter for the Correction Officers Union Anthony Sanon, said workers had to wear gloves and large coats to try and keep order in the cold. He described the situation as “just unbearable.” The public was told that the inmates had received small blankets and space heaters until they could get the power back on, yet no inmate confirmed this actually happened.

Another post on February 2 from King showed that a group of protesters had gathered, chanting “They are human beings” over and over in support. /*

“The ONLY REASON it has not been fixed is because our government does not believe these men are fully human,” King said. Smith, along with a number of activists, protested outside day after day to make sure something was being done to try and change the situation at hand. On February 2, Smith posted a video of her along with others carrying signs in support.

“IM FREEZING BUT THEY ARE IN THERE DYING, inmates in Brooklyn are being denied their basic HUMAN RIGHTS!!!” her Instagram post read.

Smith also got video of the warden Quay leaving the facility early, not giving a care in the world that men and women were suffering in the facility. Smith also had an incident where she attempted to enter the jail to speak to somebody, anybody, but ended up being pepper sprayed as a result.

After much protesting, the lights were finally returned to the facility, with the protesters outside there to bear witness for what they had fought for.

“A POWERFUL MOMENT,” King wrote in an Instagram post a few days later. “Activists and organizers and a few politicians who actually gave a damn made this happen.”

While the battle is not over and the heat is still being fully restored, the inmates are in much better state than they were. The blatant disrespect for these peoples’ human rights was honestly quite obscure and one can only be extremely thankful to have people in our world who care enough to bring stories like this to the public.