Protesters rally outside jail where inmates complain of no heat, electricity

February 02, 2019 - 3:41 pm

NEW YORK (1010 WINS/AP) – A protest was held Saturday afternoon outside a Brooklyn jail where inmates say they've spent at least part of the past week freezing cold, with little to no heat or power.

The Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park has had little electricity, so the water has stopped running and toilets can't be flushed.

A fire at the switch-gear room a week ago caused a "partial power outage," federal officials said.

In a statement Saturday, the federal Bureau of Prisons said a new electrical panel is being installed so power can be restored to the jail. The bureau said the work should be completed by Monday. 

Inmates banged on the windows in protest Saturday as family and friends chanted outside the lofty jail. 

“Heat is a human right,” protesters screamed as they demanded officials figure out how to fix the problem.

RELATED: Advocates: NYC inmates stuck in freezing cells

One organizer said it’s a life or death situation.

“With each moment that goes by, there are men in there getting sick,” she said. “There are people in there freezing to death. This is inhumane. They don’t even treat animals this bad, and for them to treat humans like this is a disgrace. Where’s the regard for human life?”

Martha was also among the protesters. Her son is locked up at the jail and she says the facility hasn’t had heat for two weeks -- not the one week officials claim.

“He’s freezing,” she said. “It’s so cold that he can’t sleep. He has on four, five pairs of socks, shirts, and it’s still cold inside.”

Martha insists that if four-legged animals were in the prison and not inmates, animal rights activists would be demanding justice.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez visited the center on Friday and described seeing and hearing the inmates in cold, dark cells as “surreal.”

Velazquez says she visited the jail with other elected officials Saturday and the heat was uneven and sporadic. She said the inmates had no light in their cells and they “are very angry and complaining.”

"After visiting MDC again today it is clear the officials there have disregarded the basic human rights of inmates," Velazquez tweeted. "This appalling situation needs to be fixed and I will continue pressuring BOP for immediate action." 

Protesters including a brass band rallied outside while Velazquez and other elected officials toured the jail.

Velazquez said fellow New York Democratic Congress members Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney joined her Saturday along with city and state lawmakers.