From the depths of a federal jail on the Brooklyn waterfront, the sound reverberates: a polyrhythmic pounding like a hailstorm on the roof of a shed.Some power was finally restored last night, but the heat is still spotty and many cells don't have any heat at all. Let's hope the courts get involved:
It is the sound of hundreds of men in freezing cells at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, a jail that was virtually without electricity and largely without heat for over a week. With the jail on partial lockdown, inmates have been unable to use phones to call their loved ones, but their percussive banging could be clearly heard to those outside, and to the world beyond.
The inmates bang anything they can — shoes, their fists — against any surface they meet: the walls and windows and bars of the jail that holds them.
Sunday morning, when protesters unfurled a long paper banner across the street from the jail that said “You are heard you are loved,” the inmates banged their approval.
When Catana Yehudah, whose brother Jason Smith is serving a gun possession sentence at the jail, led a chant through a megaphone — “No heat, that’s torture” — the inmates banged louder.
Ms. Yehudah, 50, called for quiet. “Stop banging for one second!” she yelled. The barrage subsided.
“If there is no heat,” she shouted, “bang on the windows!”
The inmates, nearly invisible behind the windows, pounded louder and louder, the fusillade filling the wide empty street.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called on the federal Department of Justice to determine whether conditions at the jail violated the inmates’ civil rights.
“No one in New York should live in fear that they may freeze to death alone in the dark,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “These allegations are a violation of human decency and dignity. They also raise questions of potential violations of law.”
Federal Bureau of Prisons officials are due in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday for a hearing ordered by Judge Analisa Torres in response to what she called “disturbing living conditions.”