American Oversight Sues Justice Department over Brooklyn Jail’s Inhumane Winter Conditions

(Photo: Matt Green)

American Oversight today sued the Department of Justice in an effort to reveal what actions officials took — or failed to take —behind the scenes during the prolonged power and heat outage that affected the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center in January and February.

During a polar vortex that brought record-low temperatures, people detained at the Brooklyn MDC were subject to dangerously cold conditions for an extended period of time. Detainees were also reportedly unable to communicate with their legal counsel or relatives.

The lawsuit follows several Freedom of Information Act requests asking for the release of any communications among the Justice Department, the Brooklyn MDC, the Bureau of Prisons and the attorney general’s office that discuss the crisis or the conditions at the jail, so as to determine whether officials took appropriate action to remedy the inhumane conditions. We have also requested records of complaints filed by inmates.

“The way we treat our most vulnerable populations is reflective of our values,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “No one should ever be subject to such cruel conditions, especially at the hands of our government. We need to know how the Trump administration and prison officials handled this disastrous situation.”

American Oversight also has active investigations into the government’s treatment of other incarcerated populations. Earlier this month, we sued the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection for records related to the treatment of detainees, including pregnant and transgender individuals. And in June, we sued DHS for records related to the deaths of detainees in ICE and Border Patrol custody.

The complaint filed today by American Oversight can be found below:

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