WASHINGTON – In response to the conditions at Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn, where inmates and officers were subjected to no heat or lights for days, American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals President Eric Young issued the following statement:
“It is unconscionable that after a panel fire at MDC Brooklyn a week ago, inmates and staff at the facility suffered through hardship last week – dealing with freezing temperatures and no lights during a polar vortex.
“But sadly, this incident does not surprise me in the least. This was a looming crisis in Brooklyn and exists nationwide.
“Right now, the Bureau of Prisons only receives small allocations of funds for facilities’ repairs. The funds allocated for that work could be used up entirely at one prison. I can tell you firsthand that we have collapsing roofs, antiquated HVAC systems, arsenic in the drinking water, asbestos in facilities, and heating systems that could give out at any point across the country – which could lead to another facility suffering through what just happened at MDC Brooklyn.
“The band-aid approach to repairs at 122 facilities nationwide is simply not working. Congress must allocate the necessary resources to allow BOP full maintenance and repair of all its facilities throughout the country.
“The bureau us warned in its 2019 budget request to Congress that 43 percent of its buildings were more than three decades old, but over the last 10 years it had received less than half of what it needed to maintain them. As a result, the bureau said it devotes its ‘modernization and repair’ budget to only its highest priority projects. Inmate and officer safety and well-being is always a high-priority, but the bureau isn’t treating it as such.
“MDC Brooklyn has been a disaster waiting to happen, and when we first received word about the damages there we were told it would take a month to repair. It was only after news broke about the hazardous conditions inside the facility that the agency took the necessary steps to restore power, heat, and lighting inside the prison.
“The men and women who safeguard our nation’s prisons deserve better, and the inmates they’re protecting do as well. The Bureau of Prisons must get increased funding as soon as possible to initiate repairs immediately.
“This is why shutting down the government is not good.
“We need to be able to deal with maintenance and repairs timely – before another incident like this occurs. These workers have already been subjected to the longest ever government shutdown and are still dealing with the financial hardships from it. They shouldn’t also have to work in cold temperatures for hours on end with insufficient lighting that creates a safety issue for officers and inmates alike.
“Working behind prison walls guarding some of our country’s most dangerous inmates is hard enough. But between the understaffing and underfunding of facility repairs, it’s becoming nearly impossible to maintain good order and security in our nation’s prisons without distractions of aging infrastructure. It’s beyond time this administration – which claims to be a ‘law and order’ one – step up and provide the resources necessary to keep our communities safe.”