Yesterday’s cold snap (and snow) reminded me of this article I found on CNN back in February. Click here: https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/02/us/new-york-federal-prison-no-heat/index.html

A Federal Prison in NY State lost power on a Thursday and said it wouldn’t be repaired until the following Monday. What that meant for inmates is sporadic heat and power. Officials visiting the prison claimed there were no lights in the cells and the temperature was dipping into the high 40’s.

Last Saturday I camped out in my backyard in preparation for a summer camping trip. The low that night dipped into the 40’s. My wife did leave the porch light on and I had a key to come back inside the house at any time.

Do the inmates have a case for an eighth amendment violation (cruel & unusual punishment)? Maybe? Probably not as long as prison officials can show they were working diligently to restore power. But, seriously, where are the generators or backup power or PLAN?

Thoughts?

7 Comments on A little cold snap

  1. Sounds like this prison is in need of some major electrical upgrades which leads me to believe a lot of this prison needs upgrades. Honestly, what major institution that houses large numbers of people does not have a backup generator? Do they not have a plan set in place for emergencies like this? The moment the prison realized they were not going to have heat for over 24 hours they really should have started activating an evacuation plan or something!

    It sounds like the Attorney General is looking into some restitution for the detainees…but I assume that not many people think this was a rights violation even though it is. Again, inmates are human beings; their rights to certain freedoms have been taken away but their right to life (well survival) which includes proper shelter, food, and water should not be infringed on. This prison and those who inspect it have some explaining to do…

  2. Is this a human rights issue violation? Absolutely! Denial of basic rights to food, water, shelter, and clothing is unacceptable even for those convicted of crimes. I have a hard time believing that, in 2019, there are government institutions that are not mechanically up to code. Even inmates are entitled to basic necessities. With “green updates”, high speed internet, and WiFi, it seems like government have truly dropped the ball on this.

  3. This is clearly a human rights concern. It also raises questions about how well-prepared federal prisons are for emergency situations. The fact that this happned in a prison may have mitigated the public outrage, but inmates have rights. Not only was there not a backup source of power, but there was no immediate action plan after the incident occured with respect to the inmates.

  4. This reminds me of something similar that happened to me over winter break. I was helping set up a new store in my hometown and the power went out. They did not have back-up generators and they did have us doing construction in the dark… pretty dangerous. After a bunch of complaints and threats thrown out for risking our safety they let us leave early. Obviously they can’t just “let the inmates go home early” but there should definitely be some sort of evacuation plan. Just because they are inmates doesn’t mean they should have to suffer. And guards had to work through this too considering someone had to be there to watch over the inmates. It also doesn’t help that the inmates being housed here were, “the treatment of inmates with serious or chronic medical problems; or the containment of extremely dangerous, violent, or escape-prone inmates.” So, the inmates were not able to be treated for medical problems it mentioned in the article. And then there are the inmates are at a high risk of escaping now in a dark prison… this whole thing just blows my mind. This is really happening in 2019…

  5. Yes, not having heat, power, or hot water is inhumane, however, I don’t understand why people aren’t seeing that it wasn’t just the inmates who suffered because of this. It’s not like the staff had the days off due to the lack of utilities in the prison. They were still working and I’m assuming they don’t work a standard eight hour day either. I wonder if the protesters had an suggestions for what to do? Were they supposed to move the inmates elsewhere and if so, where? It sounds like it was a safety issue for all involved in the situation and I’m glad it was resolved.

  6. I have mixed feelings with this case, I would say it depends on how long the prisoners stayed in those conditions and if the prison was actually working to fix the power outage. If they were given extra blankets or adviced ways to stay warm I do not think it could be considered cruel and unusual punishment since the prisoners are not the only ones that were under those conditions (the correctional officers are forced to worked in those conditions as well). Also, like it was started in the post, they should of had back up generations to keep power in the prison. They might need more funds to be able to keep the jail working properly in case of an emergency.

  7. I’m not a hundred percent sure how I feel about this. I tried to look up different articles to get more information but didn’t find much. I feel like this is kind of a case of “sh*t happens”. The whole issue probably wasn’t handled as well as it should’ve been (though, as I said, I feel like there’s information missing). Generators should’ve been brought in first thing, maybe space heaters or something. The article did say the city sent blankets and other supplies. I don’t know, the information seems a little too vague to me to make a decision about whether human rights were violated or not. Also the statement about “reading their medication instructions”… do inmates just have their meds on them at all times? are they not distributed by staff to ensure there aren’t overdoses and/or trading going on between prisoners? This part seems a little farfetched to me. 49 degrees is not warm by any means and it would suck big time to sleep in that, but it seems to me like some efforts WERE made to get them by until it got fixed.

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