Sunday, February 3, 2019

Last Call For Prisoners Of Our Own Past

America's infrastructure is collapsing on a daily basis, and it will never be repaired as long as the GOP is in charge of the country in any meaningful way, but let's not forget that the state that Wall Street built isn't exactly covering itself with laurels these days when it comes to anything more than promises.  NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo like to talk about how New York can finally become a more liberal society, but the Empire State still has a long way to go.

The inmates were held 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. At 2 p.m., the jail population had not yet been fed.

Those were the conditions described on Saturday by elected officials in New York City who had visited a federal jail on the Brooklyn waterfront, Metropolitan Detention Center, where more than 1,600 inmates have been largely confined to their freezing, dark cells for nearly a week, since an electrical fire partially cut off power to the jail, prompting management to cancel visits and place inmates on lockdown.
“The situation is really, really a nightmare,” said Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, a Democrat whose district includes the jail. “It is like living in a closet without lights.”

Officials, including Ms. Velázquez, who was initially denied a full tour of the facility on Friday night, stood on the stairs of the jail after their visit and spoke to a crowd of a few hundred that had gathered for a rally to demand that the inmates get heat, hot meals and be allowed to contact their families and lawyers.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, whose district includes parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, 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, Mr. Nadler noted.

When Mr. Nadler announced that contracted electricians had already left, and that power was unlikely to be restored over the weekend, the crowd grew angry.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons released a statement on Saturday night on behalf of the jail’s management, saying that a new electrical panel had been installed by an outside contractor that day and that the “facility is working to restore power as expeditiously as possible.” It expected work to be completed by Monday.

The statement continued: “Inmates have hot water for showers and hot water in the sinks in the cell. Essential personal hygiene items and medical services continue to be provided.”

Here's the best part though:

Many family members said they had not heard from relatives since last weekend and were not given any information when they called the jail. They learned about what was happening through Twitter and news reports.

That included both de Blasio and Cuomo, who had no idea what was going on until this story gained traction over the weekend, several days after the electrical fire.  Without criminal justice reform activists spreading the word, the Metro Detention Center's inmates would still be kept in the dark, and America along with it.

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