Fire didn't cause heating problem at MDC Brooklyn, says Inspector General

An investigation into the conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn following a week-long power outage earlier this year found longstanding heating issues.

A fire broke out in the electrical room at MDC Brooklyn on Jan. 27. The heat, hot water and lights were out until Feb. 3, but the fire was not the cause of the outages, according to Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

A lack of proper equipment to monitor temperatures was the source of the problem.

Prison officials were aware of the unacceptable conditions, but did not adequately address them, added Horowitz.

The BOP Did Not Communicate the Status of Conditions at the Facility During the Power Outage or the Reason for Canceling Legal and Social Visits in a Sufficient or Timely Manner

— Inspector General Michael Horowitz

1,600 inmates were on lock-down during that time.

Protesters gathered outside the jail to call for better conditions for those incarcerated; one woman even stormed the entrance but was peper-sprayed by law enforcement officers.

In a statement and video released Thursday, Horowitz said an inspection of the jail a week prior to the fire found that the indoor temperature was 59 degrees. During an inspection the following month, the temperature inside was more than 80 degrees.

The wide-ranging fluctuations in temperatures were common at the jail where there were more complaints about overly hot conditions than cold ones, said Horowitz.

The heating, ventilation and cooling systems were expected to be upgraded following the report's release.

It recommends that until upgrades can be made, prison officials distribute thermal underway, sweat suits or other cold-weather clothing to the list of standard-issued attire.