Administration officials at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, NY are facing increasing pressure to release some of the estimated 1,300 inmates who are currently being held there.
That’s because of the recent outbreak of COVID-19 among MDC inmates and staff – and because of the facility’s continuing deterioration.
Approximately 90% of the MDC inmates are there because they weren’t able to post bail – or weren’t allowed to post bail – while they wait to go to trial. In other words, even though they have not yet been convicted of anything, they are being held because they are poor – or because a judge deemed them to be a “flight risk” or a “danger to society”.
Conditions At MDC Continue to Deteriorate
MDC is currently experiencing a major COVID-19 outbreak among both its inmates and its staff.
According to reports from several news outlets, most of the new cases are occurring in a 7th floor unit in the facility’s West Tower (All of MDC’s male inmates are housed in the West Tower).
MDC has confirmed that as of November 7th, 55 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Bureau of Prisons’ website has also confirmed that 6 staff at the facility had also tested positive for the disease. That figure differs substantially from the 49 MDC staff that the Daily News has reported were infected with COVID-19.
The facility has been on “full lockdown” since early in November.
During such periods, inmates are held in their cells approximately 23-hours a day. The only time they get out is to take a shower (3 times per week), to pick up their commissary orders (every other week), and to make phone calls (a maximum of 15 minutes per call).
In addition, all meals are served to inmates in their cells, no visits with friends and family members are allowed, and only “emergency” meetings with lawyers are allowed while the facility is on “full lockdown”.
To make matters worse, the MDC facility has also been experiencing periodic outages of heat and hot water since early November. While not as bad as the life-threatening conditions that resulted from a fire and partial power outage back in February 2019, the current conditions have been described as “extremely uncomfortable”.
Justin Long, a spokesperson for the BOP, claimed that recent reports concerning the deteriorating conditions at MDC are overblown.
“All inmates at MDC Brooklyn are properly cared for per CDC guidelines and have full access to MDC Brooklyn’s health services staff on a daily basis,” Long said. “The institution’s health services staff complete daily rounds of all housing units to address any concerns inmates may have.”
“Sick call is also available each day for any inmate experiencing any illness”, Long added. “Any inmate who has tested positive for COVID-19 is isolated in a designated housing unit and not quartered with healthy inmates”.
Notwithstanding the BOP’s denials, a recent report in The New York Times indicated that conditions are continuing to deteriorate at the facility. The conditions described in that report include the following:
- Prison officials are not following basic public health guidelines: e.g., Corrections Officers are not wearing masks – or not wearing them properly – while interacting with inmates;
- Sick inmates are not receiving proper medical attention – and are being allowed to stay in cells with healthy inmates;
- There is little contact tracing when a Corrections Officer or an inmate tests positive for COVID-19;
- There is no on-site testing for MDC staff;
- Water in at least one part of the facility has turned brown – and is no longer drinkable;
- Garbage is being allowed to accumulate in inmates’ cells – thereby worsening the ever-present rodent problem; and
- Emergency call buttons in many cells have stopped working.
On Friday, December 4th, dozens of protesters gathered outside MDC to demand that the BOP immediately begin releasing inmates in order to ensure that none of them die unnecessarily.
“We’re demanding they free anyone in the facility who’s immunocompromised,” said Eve, a protester with the activist group Sunset Park Popular Assembly, who did not give her last name.
It does not appear that MDC has made any such releases since the latest COVID-19 surge began in early November.
Gregory Cooper, a former inmate who was granted compassionate release back on April 30th, previously reported that at least a dozen of the 80 inmates in his unit showed symptoms of COVID-19 before he was released – and that the prison did not enforce adequate social distancing measures when inmates were allowed to leave their cells.
“There is no social distancing,” Cooper said. “When they let everybody out for the 30 minutes, everybody is congregating, everybody is talking.”
Shutdown of Federal Courts Is Looming
Earlier this year, courtrooms in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) and the Southern District of New York (SDNY) closed for approximately three months – from mid-March to mid-June – because of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although neither district has closed down for a second time, many local courtroom observers predict that both will close down for several months at the start of the new year.
If the EDNY courthouse is closed, then it is likely the sentencing of Allison Mack, Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman and Kathy Russell will be postponed until sometime next Spring (All federal defendants have an absolute right to be present in person at their sentencing – which means that the only way any of those NXIVM-related defendants could be sentenced during a courtroom shutdown is if they agreed to do so via a teleconference proceeding).
So, What Does All This Mean for Clare Bronfman & Keith Raniere?
Under normal circumstances, both Clare, who was sentenced to 81-months in federal prison on September 30th – and Keith, who was sentenced to 120-years in federal prison on October 27th – would likely have already been transferred to wherever they will serve their respective sentences (Except for “cadre inmates” – who have been assigned to work at the facility and who usually have less than 4-years to serve – MDC does not house inmates once they have been sentenced).
Thus, were it not for the COVID-19 spike that is going on right now, Clare (AKA Federal Prisoner # 91010-053) would likely have been transferred to her expected landing place: the federal women’s prison in Danbury, CT.
Similarly, Keith (AKA Federal Prisoner # 57005-177) would likely have been moved to wherever he will begin serving his life sentence (Given the length of his sentence, it is quite possible that he will end up serving time in several prisons before he dies).
As of now, it is still very uncertain as to where Keith will be assigned.
Although his attorneys asked that he be assigned to a prison that is relatively close to New York City – and although the BOP generally tries to assign inmates to prisons within 500-miles of their hometown – there is a good chance that Keith will end up at a federal prison that is far, far away.
That’s because he was convicted, among other crimes, of sex trafficking and possession of child pornography – and because he has expressed concern about his safety if he is placed in the general population of a regular federal prison.
Given those issues, Keith’s best hope is to get assigned to a facility that has a Sex Offender Management Program (SOMP).
As previously reported in Frank Report, there are several such prisons that offer such programs: the medical facility in Devens, MA; the low-security facilities in Seagoville, TX, Elkton, OH and Englewood, CO; the medium-security facilities in Petersburg, VA, Marianna, FL, and Marion, IL; and the high-security facility in Tucson, AZ.
Now, Keith just has to hope that his recent spate of bad luck changes – and that the BOP assigns him to one of those facilities.
The “bad news” for both Clare and Keith is that they will very likely be spending the upcoming holidays at MDC.
The “good news”, of course, is that they will each be getting a holiday bag full of candy, snacks, and other treats.