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February 20, 2019

Defense attorneys demand tour of freezing Brooklyn federal jail

February 6, 2019
Tina Luongo Legal Aid Society Attorney-in-Charge wants to tour the Metropolitan Detention Center. (Alec Tabak for New York Daily News)

Defense attorneys are demanding the warden of the Metropolitan Detention Center take them on a tour of the Brooklyn jail that became a frigid house of horrors last week with prisoners forced to wrap themselves in blankets and sheets to keep warm.

The lawyers — affiliated with the Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services and the Bronx Defenders, among other groups — sent MDC Warden Herman Quay a letter Wednesday requesting he and his staff give them access to the jail’s housing units, medical facilities and mess hall.

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Legal Aid’s Attorney-in-Charge Tina Luongo, who signed the letter, said a tour is needed because Quay has consistently provided misleading information about conditions inside the Sunset Park lock-up.

“I don’t trust that the warden is being truthful, and it’s been a systemic issue,” she said.

The Federal Metropolitan Detention Center at 90 29th Street in Brooklyn.
The Federal Metropolitan Detention Center at 90 29th Street in Brooklyn. (Theodore Parisienne for New York Daily News)

Gulag-like conditions at the jail made headlines last week after inmates began banging their windows and flashing lights to signal an SOS to onlookers on the streets outside.

Luongo recounted how Legal Aide inquired with MDC about conditions there as early as Jan. 22, but did not get a response.

When Quay has spoken about what’s going on inside, she said, he’s given “contrary information … ie lies.”

“They lost the right to say that they can manage this,” she said. “They lost all credibility.”

Defense attorney Natali Todd’s client Miguel Cruz was released on Jan .30, three days after conditions at MDC began to severely deteriorate. He cried when he got out because plummeting temperatures forced him to wrap himself in jail-issued bedding to stay warm.

“He was wrapped in it all the time,” she said. “That place needs to be looked at top to bottom. It really is outrageous. It shows a complete lack of humanity.”

The federal Bureau of Prisons, which oversees the jail, did not immediately return a call.

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