Inmates at a Brooklyn jail were locked up without heat or hot water this weekend, sparking what attorneys call a "humanitarian crisis" in a lawsuit filed Monday.
As temperatures dipped to some of their lowest of the season on Thursday, a partial power outage at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, left inmates without lights or heat. Activists and politicians gathered around the jail to protest and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) called for a federal investigation into the matter.
Lighting was restored at the end of the day Sunday, NBC New York reports, but that was far from the end of the ordeal. The federal public defenders' office filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn's U.S. District Court on Monday morning, alleging inmates' constitutional rights were violated as they were denied access to counsel during the outage, per The New York Times. A hearing for the lawsuit was quickly held at 11 a.m., and a judge ordered the jail to take one sick inmate to the hospital, Reuters says.
The detention center houses more than 1,600 inmates, largely accused of low-level offenses, ahead of their trials. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) visited the prison, which is in her district, and described it as a "nightmare ... like living in a closet without lights."
A Department of Justice spokesperson confirmed conditions were restored Sunday night and said "the facility can now begin to return to regular operations." Representatives from the DOJ and Federal Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on the suit to the Times.