Brooklyn prisoners left in dark with little heat in cold weather

This undated image shows the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.             
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This undated image shows the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Google Maps

The Metropolitan Detention Center, which holds pre-trial detainees, has been without any heat or hot water since January 21, and a small electrical fire on January 27 means inmates and workers are now without any lighting.

Andrew Cuomo (D) on Sunday called for a Justice Department investigation into the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where frigid conditions reportedly have left inmates begging for help. "Government owes a fundamental responsibility to serve all people and the Federal Bureau of Prisons needs to live up to that responsibility".

Federal Defenders of New York Director David Patton reported all cells have been locked down for three days, and "w$3 hen the sun goes down it's pitch dark". The power problems have also meant inmates can not easily call family or lawyers nor get any needed medication refilled, lawyers said.

And Eric Phillips, spokesman for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, has been reaching out to federal officials who run the facility, offering assistance.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez of NY (D) said she visited the center on Saturday and there "appeared" to be some heat restored, but that the facility was still "dark and cold".

Beverly Disano said she hoped her son would at least have access to television so they could watch the Super Bowl on Sunday.

The Bureau of Prisons said the facility had a fire in the room housing electrical switches and one of the two buildings had a partial power outage.

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Public defenders and the correction officers union say inmates had no heat and electricity since last weekend.

On Sunday, an inmate was able to call through the window of his cell, which faces out to the street, to his mother below.

Telephone calls to the jail went unanswered on Saturday, but it said in a statement that power had been affected in one building and that fix work should be completed on Monday. "They just stay huddled up in the bed", June Bencebi, case manager at the jail, told the Times. The court papers say that jail officials have taken no steps to provide Sanchez with "an oxygen mask, clothing, blankets, or access to a habitable location that will mitigate his health risks".

Pedreira said federal prison officers are working while wearing hats, coats and scarves.

"I need to find out what's going on with my clients", lawyer Ezra Spilke said Friday.

She said senior officials at the jail were "indifferent" to the problems during her tour even as guards complained to her of the cold.

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