after dark week, brooklyn inmates finally have heat

February 5, 2019
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For a story to carry a perfectly balanced combination of heartbreak and joy is rare. The chance to breathe a sigh of relief after an inhumane attack does not come around too often. The horrifying conditions that inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn experienced for over a week is unacceptable. What happened behind the bars of the jail was sickening and the only antidote was the community it fostered.

The state in which the inmates lived is being classified as a “humanitarian crisis” in a lawsuit filed against Federal Bureau of Prisons and the warden of the detention center, according to NBC News. Prisoners were forced to spend their days and nights in freezing cold, dark cells, after a heating system breakdown and power failure. 

If you’re on social media, watch the news, or live in America’s Midwest or on its East Coast, you’re aware that a piercing wave of cold weather swept over these areas last week. The extreme weather has been affecting people’s health with a death toll that has recently risen to 21. Having felt the cold from the privilege of my warm winter coat and corresponding accessories, it’s beyond out of order that people were forced to spend days with no warmth or electricity — and no end in sight. 

While it’s not new information that incarcerated people in this country are treated in a manner that violates their human rights, each examples hurts as though it’s our first time learning it. These moments are complex, in the effect they have; yet also simple, as they are just a plain act of evil. While no person should be treated inhumanely, it’s important to note that this occurred in a jail which means some of whom were awaiting trial. Chances are that many of these inmates were only here because they could not afford to pay their bail, due to a system that systematically disenfranchises them, keeping them locked up as a means of profit. Apparently, all this money is NOT used to pay the Detention Center’s electricity or heat bills. gives a good understanding of jail versus prison, 

Some inmates complain that jail, given its constant flow of people that can often interfere with an inmate’s ability to sleep, eat on a regular schedule, or participate in exercise. Some jails also suffer from budget shortages that lead to lower quality or inadequate food. these issues often lead to claims of violations of the inmate’s right against cruel and unusual punishment. However, such claims are rarely, if ever, successful.” 

Like many, I’m disgusted, and shaken by the parallels between the videos I’ve seen of protesters communicating with those inside the jail, and the communication methods used by slaves. Watching the videos of protesters yelling through a megaphone asking inmates to knock on the walls if they are without heat and food followed by sounds of intense drumming on the walls was chilling. To so blatantly see the connection between incarceration and slavery, as described in works such as Ava Duvernay’s 13th or Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, was completely depressing. 

As of Monday, February 4th, power and heat at the jail have been restored. In a week that was literally and figuratively dark, there was one source of light and it was extremely bright. The community that formed outside of the jail and spread like wildfire via social media — a relentless, kind coming together of inmates’ family members, protesters, activists and strangers — was inspiring. They proved that our power is in numbers.  When we show up for each other, we are electric. When we raise a megaphone to injustice, the world listens. These stories don’t often end with a sigh of relief or happy tears, so it’s a nice surprise when they do. It’s now our job to continue to keep the lights on for disenfranchised peoples everywhere. We need to ensure that we continue to use strategies to communicate with those of us who’s voices are harder to hear. This is proof that we can always find a way to connect to each other. Let’s use what happened outside the Metropolitan Detention Center this past week as a reminder, and retain the hope that’s often hard to grasp.