Attorney General James Files Brief In Lawsuit Against Federal Bureau Of Prisons Over Conditions At Metropolitan Detention Center

Files Amicus Brief in Lawsuit Over Emergency Procedure Failures, Inhumane Conditions, and Lack of Access to Counsel at MDC 

NEW YORK -- Attorney General Letitia James filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Defenders of New York over the federal government’s failed response to the power and heating outages that occurred at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The lawsuit alleges that the federal government’s response to the loss of maintenance services and failure to institute and execute emergency proceedings resulted in days of inhumane conditions for individuals detained at the facility. 

The amicus brief, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, cites New York State’s extensive experience and preparedness handling emergencies (including heat and power outages) in correctional and other secured facilities and highlights the utility of appointing a special master to monitor conditions at the MDC. 

“The reported conditions at MDC were unacceptable and inhumane,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Being incarcerated should not result in being denied basic human rights. Our facilities must have proper protocols and procedures in place in the event of emergencies. I will continue to support the call for stronger policies and practices at the federal level to ensure the safety and well-being of all New Yorkers."

Federal Defenders of New York, a public defender organization, recently sued the Bureau of Prisons and MDC Warden Herman Quay, on the grounds that they violated the constitutional rights of inmates at MDC by denying legal visits during the outage. The lawsuit called for the appointment of a special master to inspect the MDC and assess current conditions at the facility to ensure the rights of detainees are not being denied.  

New York State’s extensive experience maintaining secured facilities and developing emergency procedures makes the State well-positioned to advocate and advise the court on protocols and oversight. New York State maintains a criminal correctional system that houses close to 47,000 individuals across 54 state-operated facilities, has extensive procedures in place to respond effectively to natural disasters, weather-related emergencies, maintenance and service failures, fires, and other major disruptions in the facilities that it operates and oversees.