Federal Bureau of Prisons sued for records about week-long power outage at New York City jail

It comes as there has been no clear answer from BOP why the power went out

July 31, 2019, 6:37 PM

In late January and early February, the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn experienced a power outage that darkened the jail for days as temperatures dropped well below freezing.

Now, American Oversight, a nonpartisan organization, is suing for records regarding that week-long outage. The lawsuit alleges the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) did not adequately respond to American Oversight's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests raising questions about how the power outage was handled.

"The way we treat our most vulnerable populations is reflective of our values," Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight said in a statement. "No one should ever be subject to such cruel conditions, especially at the hands of our government. We need to know how the Trump administration and prison officials handled this disastrous situation."

The lawsuit alleges a failure to comply with time limited portion of a FOIA and American Oversight says that they “exhausted its administrative remedies” and now, a lawsuit is appropriate given the circumstances, to get the documents.

The Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Department of Justice inspector general are currently investigating the "BOP's management of the electrical and heating issues.”

PHOTO: Inmates bang on windows inside the Metropolitan Detention Center as a protest develops outside in Brooklyn, New York, Feb. 3, 2019.
Inmates bang on windows inside the Metropolitan Detention Center as a protest develops outside in Brooklyn, New York, Feb. 3, 2019.
Yana Paskova/The New York Times

American Oversight is asking for all the records they requested through the FOIA from the power outage.

While the inmates stayed confined to their cells, correctional officers also felt the effects of the prison condition, BOP union officials said at the time of the outage.

Despite claims of "inhumane treatment" in one federal lawsuit filed in February, the Department of Justice said they "are committed to the safe and humane living and working conditions of all inmates and employees," a DOJ official said in a statement when the investigation was first announced.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News that the person in charge of overseeing the MDC Brooklyn, Herman E. Quay, was recently promoted to a different prison closer to his home in Pennsylvania. The Bureau of Prisons denied that Quay was promoted, rather that he did not receive a promotion as a result of his move to a new facility.

The source also said Quay was not in town at the time of the outage and, according to this source, did not want to stay through the weekend. The outage started on a Saturday.

The Bureau of Prisons told ABC News they would not comment any further because of ongoing legal proceedings or pending litigation.