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Brooklyn federal lock up failed to control temps even before power outage, report finds

2019-09-26

Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn grossly failed to provide adequate heat and air conditioning long before a fire caused a power outage at the federal facility, says a new Office of the Inspector General report.

The report released Thursday — the findings of a review prompted by the January blaze — found that temperatures taken during a February inspection dipped as low as 59 degrees in some cells and soared above 80 degrees in others.

The partial outage lasted from January 27 to February 3 — and sparked protests outside the Sunset Park lock up by advocates angry over the suffering of inmates inside.

“We determined that heating issues had been a longstanding problem at the jail that existed before, during and after the fire and power outage and were unrelated to these events," Michael Horowitz, Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Justice, said in a statement on Thursday, noting that inmates filed nearly three times as many complaints about sweltering conditions rather than cooler temps during the winter months.

“We found that while prison officials took reasonable steps during the power outage to ensure the safety and security of inmates, they failed to effectively manage the known heating issues and two medical issues,” he added. “Prison officials [also] did not effectively communicate with inmates’ counsel, relatives of inmates and other stakeholders about the suspension of legal and social visiting during the power outage.”

The Inspector General recommended that the federal Bureau of Prisons, which oversees MDC, upgrade the jail’s heating, ventilation and cooling equipment, and give staff access to updated software that would allow them to monitor and adjust temperatures.