Small chunks of concrete are falling from the ceiling at the notorious Lower Manhattan federal jail. To stop freezing temperatures, inmates are forced to stuff coronavirus-infected face masks into the vents.
One cell is currently off limits because the door is unstable. This is likely due to the constant pounding of the prisoner inside the cinder block walls over the years.
The Metropolitan Correctional Center was once a model for a federal jail that would be the safest in the country. But it has now become a disgraceful wreck. Last month, the Justice Department stated that it would close jail in order to make much-needed repairs. But it could never reopen.
The Associated Press was allowed rare access inside the facility — this was the first time a reporter had toured it since wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein died there in August 2019. His death revealed a host of problems in the jail.
The Metropolitan Correctional Center was home to a number of criminals, including El Chapo, John Gotti and Bernie Madoff. It also housed some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world. The jail houses prisoners while they wait for their trials or transfer to federal prisons. In the past, it has held close to 900 prisoners.
There are currently 200 inmates. Around 125 inmates will be transferred to the federal detention centre just over the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn. Another 75 will go to FCI Otisville in upstate New York.
They will be held in squalor until they can be transferred.
Because of structural issues from decades of wear and tear, the pathway trucks and buses use inside is unusable. Therefore, inmates are taken outside to be brought in and out via pedestrian walkways. This significantly increases security and safety.
One part of the kitchen’s ceiling is falling in, making it unsafe to wash dishes. Inmates now use paper plates and eat from them. One housing unit has two sinks. The slow drip is incessant. Paint is peeling off the walls around the window, and the single shower has black spots.
The architect claimed that he was instructed to make the jail “as little as possible like a prison.” This was a new type of lock-up designed for urban areas. It is not spread over large land, but rather a vertical structure more like a dormitory or hotel than a detention centre.
The 1970s were hailed as a “quantum leap ahead from traditional jails”, but it was soon reversed. High-end amenities were lost and basic jail accommodations like working cell doors became harder to find.
It was already failing two years after its opening. The jail’s population had exploded to 539, 90 more than was originally intended. A judge declared the jail “unacceptably cramped” and “obstructive” for most of its healthy inmates.
It has slowly fallen into dank decay since then. Some pipes have stopped working and others are in such tight spaces that no one can reach them to repair. It is expensive to repair them and will require cutting off heat, water, or air conditioning throughout the jail. Long-term upgrades or repairs are not possible while inmates are inside.
Some housing units can’t be used anymore because the cell door openings, known as food ports, won’t close. Officers might be grabbed by inmates through the open slots and attacked.
Judges were already considering the prison’s deteriorating condition when deciding on sentencing, and crediting inmates with extra time served as they endured daily life in the jail.
After Daniel Gonzalez described a chaotic stay in jail, Manhattan Federal Judge Paul Oetken reduced his sentence for drug charges. He said that Gonzalez was locked up for 23 hours per day, he didn’t shower for days, and had a persistent foot infection.
Oetken stated that he believes that the punishment is more harsh than usual and that it is therefore equivalent to either time and a quarter or two times what would be normally served. Oetken stated, “I believe that having served 24 months is equivalent of having served three years.”
Another judge said that the facility was run by “morons”. The facility has been governed by four wardens over the past two-years.
After Epstein’s death , the warden was brought in and abruptly retired in January following allegations of inmate abuse as well as sexual misconduct involving staff.
Her replacement, , was just three months old and fresh from serving in the Trump administration’s historic run of capital punishment. This ran became a virus superpreader. The next one was only two weeks.
The current warden is in charge of the jail since May. He was sent by a regional office to oversee its closing.
Advocates believe that the Justice Department’s decision not to close the MCC is a sign of progress towards accountability for the federal Bureau of Prisons. Just a few weeks ago, Lisa Monaco, the Deputy Attorney General, visited the jail and saw the conditions. This was a sign that the Biden administration understood the need for immediate action.
Since its inception, the Bureau of Prisons has been subject to allegations of misconduct and abuse. The agency has come under fire from advocates, lawmakers, and the inspector general of Justice Department. The agency has been plagued by a failure to respond to the pandemic. This includes a string of escapes, deaths, and critically low staffing levels, which have hindered responses to emergencies.
Nearly one third of federal correctional officer positions in the United States is vacant. This forces prisons to employ teachers, nurses, cooks and other workers to guard their inmates. Augmentation, also known as that practice, raises questions about the agency’s ability to fulfill its duties and ensure the safety and well-being of staff members and prisoners. It also puts in place the programs and classes required by law.
The overtime shifts were added to one of the officers who was assigned to guard Epstein that night. Prosecutors claim they were browsing the internet, shopping for furniture and bikes — rather than watching Epstein who was supposed be checked every 30 minutes.
David Patton, executive director and attorney in chief of the Federal Defenders of New York said that he was “genuinely shocked” by the government’s decision to close the Metropolitan Correctional Center. He called it a failing institution. He said that he and other public defenses knew something was up because the number of inmates kept declining.
Patton stated that his experience with the BOP and the facilities there is that there seems to be no accountability. It is a revolving door system of wardens. It seems that no one is in charge of the management of these facilities.”
Officials hope that relocating prisoners from the Metropolitan Detention Center to Brooklyn will greatly improve matters. Officials hope that relocating prisoners to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn will greatly improve the situation.
The facility’s conditions are still far better than those found across the East River. The housing units are larger, more modern, and cleaner than ever before. There are also outdoor recreation areas, improved medical services, and a separate wing that offers educational programs.
Brooklyn staff are also making preparations for new inmates. They have increased their telephone and video conferencing capabilities to meet with lawyers. Inmates can meet with their lawyers online in special rooms built at the top of each unit. These rooms are in addition to 20 conference rooms available in the regular visiting area.
Brooklyn jail offers GED diplomas for inmates, as well as other educational programs and group therapy. A full medical unit, staffed by about 30 people at the moment and additional staff being brought from Manhattan, features an urgent care room, a dental suite and a few examination rooms that allow inmates to visit Bureau of Prisons doctors.
It’s unclear what will happen to Manhattan jail when the last inmate leaves. The department has not yet revealed how much it will spend to fix the facility.