Following an outcry over conditions at a federal detention center in Brooklyn that had limited power during a recent blast of cold weather, New Jersey U.S. Senator Cory Booker is seeking information about a similar episode at a federal prison in South Jersey.
In a letter to the Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Hugh Hurwitz dated Tuesday, Booker said he had received reports that FCI Fairton had been “experiencing heating issues and that blankets were not being distributed” during the week of Jan. 28.
Temperatures in Fairton that week dipped into single digits.
The medium-security federal prison is located in Cumberland County and houses nearly 1,100 inmates, according to the BOP’s website. Booker’s office has since heard from the BOP Office of Legislative Affairs that the prison is now adequately heated, “albeit with some temporary measures,” according to the letter.
A Booker aide told WHYY a heating coil in one unit needed to be replaced, and then one of the prison’s three boilers malfunctioned. The BOP told Booker’s office it is using a portable boiler in the meantime, and that it had 1,000 blankets in a warehouse if temperatures dip again, the aide said.
Booker linked the issues at FCI Fairton to those at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, where a limited power outage coincided with a period of extreme cold in late January. The allegedly “inhumane” conditions that resulted, as well as restrictions to legal visits during the outage, have triggered a lawsuit. The presidential candidate requested more information about how the Bureau of Prisons plans for power outages during extreme weather, criticizing what he called “dangerous conditions” at both facilities.
The Democrat also asked if there are regulations pertaining to maintaining an “acceptable temperature” in federal prisons.
The Bureau of Prisons did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Extreme cold — or heat — in prisons can be unsafe, according to the Marshall Project. Too much air-conditioning and poor heating have both contributed to hypothermia in inmates, its reporting found.
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