Statement from Federal Defenders of New York on March 8, 2020

Statement from Federal Defenders of New York

As coronavirus continues to spread, Federal Defenders of New York is extremely concerned about the lack of information and planning at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Manhattan and the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, the federal pre-trial detention centers in New York City run by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

The MCC and MDC, and others with which the BOP contracts, house several thousand people in tight quarters and unsanitary conditions. In the wake of a complete shutdown last week at the MCC, some units of more than 25 people are sharing a single toilet. Many people are locked in small cells with a cellmate sharing a toilet and sink. Nobody has been able to shower more than once every three days. Bedsheets and clothes have not been cleaned in over a week. Many of the people detained are elderly or have serious medical issues, populations that are particularly at high risk for death if they contract the virus.

The Federal Defenders of New York calls on the BOP and each institution in New York City housing federal detainees to make public its plans and policies for preventing a coronavirus outbreak and responding to detained people who contract coronavirus. At a minimum, those plans and policies should include:

1. A comprehensive testing protocol;

2. Much greater precautionary measures with respect to sanitation and hygiene, including frequent cleaning and ready availability of soap and tissues (the opposite of what is occurring at the MCC right now);

3. A provision for quarantining anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus at a hospital, not at the jail;

4. A provision that the jails not be locked down or closed off to outsiders or considered in their entirety as places of “quarantine”, and permitting lawyers and family members access to their clients and loved ones;

5. Coordination with the Courts and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to ensure that only in extraordinary circumstances should any new arrestee be detained at the jails, and no one should be admitted without testing.

David Patton

Executive Director

Federal Defenders of New York