Electrical Fire at Brooklyn Jail

The jailhouse is rocking, but not with music. An electrical fire at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn began a series of frigid events for inmates, staff, and the community. On January 27, an electrical panel that broke down caught fire and then the generator switch melted. The facility was unable to use generator power from these events, but the New York Times reports that issues with heating in the facility had been ongoing since the middle of January. The electrical fire affected the hot water boilers, making the recent cold snap in the Northeastern states even more troublesome.

On February 2, protesters gathered outside of the Brooklyn jail, which houses approximately 1,700 inmates waiting for trial, demanding answers for loved ones and hot meals and heat for the inmates. Some of the protesters tried to enter the jail, but were deterred by corrections officers with pepper spray.

Metropolitan Detention Center officials sad that installation of a replacement electrical panel was completed on late Saturday February 2 and that power should resume by Monday February 4. City officials later announced that power was restored on Sunday. Many of the inmates were in their cells during below freezing temperatures for almost a week during the lock-down. News reports from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal indicated that while there was emergency lighting many of the inmate cells were dark and some inmates did not receive medical attention after request.

In an update from NPR, “the DOJ [Department of Justice] asked its watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General, to “undertake a review” and determine whether the Bureau of Prisons “responded appropriately” to the heat and power failures at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.” The Bureau of Prisons will also conduct an investigation. These investigations were encouraged by U.S. Democratic representatives from New York–among them Nydia Velázquez and Jerrold Nadler.

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