Brooklyn federal jailers work 16-hour shifts amid prisoner influx as government shuts Jeffrey Epstein suicide lockup in Manhattan

·2 min read

Brooklyn’s federal jail is struggling with a serious staff shortage as it takes an influx of new detainees from the Manhattan federal lockup that is in the process of closing, a top union official said.

Stretched-thin corrections officers at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center struggle to deal with the new inmates transfers from Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center arrive every day, said the Brooklyn jail’s union president, Rhonda Barnwell.

“Because we have no staff, some days there is no one assigned to a housing unit. Sometimes for eight hours there’s no one. That’s very dangerous,” said Barnwell, who works in the MDC’s medical department. “The agency [Bureau of Prisons] is quite aware we’ve had several posts unmanned, and they’ve done absolutely nothing about it.”

The result is exhausted corrections officers pulling double shifts and sleeping in their cars outside the Sunset Park jail, Barnwell said. Often, she said, sick inmates go without treatment because the medical staff is so shorthanded.

“The staff are tired. Some staff are doing 16 hours a day, five days a week,” said the union chief.

Barnwell said she fears the staff shortage will mean more fighting among inmates, and more contraband smuggled into the jail.

Officers at the jail are “not at their best to really see some of these offenses happening,” she said.

Numerous safety and sanitation problems were reported at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, which is in the process of closing. Accused sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein killed himself there in 2019.

For a week in 2020, the Manhattan jail was locked down after a gun was smuggled into the building. Inmates and staff have complained that it is a vermin-infested nightmare, and a corrections officer was sentenced to prison in December on charges of sexually abusing women prisoners over a six-year period.

The more than 200 remaining inmates in the Manhattan jail are likely to be transferred out October, according to a source.

Barnwell’s plea for additional resources comes as a chorus of New York congressional members called on the Bureau of Prisons to give them concrete plans regarding the influx of inmates at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center.

The congressmembers cited the “long, troubled history” at the Metropolitan Detention Center, and questioned whether the Sunset Park jail is ready for another few hundred federal detainees who might come from Manhattan “absent changes in staffing and resources.”

The letter to Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal was signed by Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and representatives Nydia Velàzquez, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Yvette Clarke, Carolyn Maloney, Grace Meng, Ritchie Torres, Jamaal Bowman, Hakeem Jeffries, Adriano Espaillat, Gregory Meeks, Thomas Suozzi and Jerry Nadler.

A BOP spokesperson promised updates about the Brooklyn jail and the “deactivation” of the Manhattan jail soon.

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