Once Again the Brooklyn Federal Detention Center is Slammed, This Time Concerning the Poor Response to COVID-19
Date:  11-11-2020

Previous issues include inhumane treatment of people locked up, sexual abuse by staff members, and the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein while in custody
From the Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General:

Summary of Inspection Results Our inspection of MDC Brooklyn found that:

  • MDC Brooklyn followed BOP directives regarding testing symptomatic inmates for COVID-19; however, limited testing supplies inhibited the institution’s ability to test other inmates to measure the true number of COVID-19 cases in April and May. As of May 1, the institution told us that it had received only 30 test kits due to a national shortage of test kits at that time. On May 14, it received a rapid COVID-19 test machine with approximately 175 test kits and, since then, received an additional 100–250 rapid test kits per week through October 19. 4 CDC guidelines did not prioritize testing asymptomatic inmates and MDC Brooklyn healthcare staff did not test all inmates.

  • The institution’s self-contained, tiered housing units with closed cells on separate floors limits contact and potential cross-contamination among inmates in different units, and we believe that this housing arrangement likely contributed to the institution’s low number of overall cases. MDC Brooklyn’s implementation of BOP social distancing directives further limited interpersonal contact among inmates.

  • The shortage of medical staff at MDC Brooklyn was among the biggest challenges in appropriately screening inmates and staff members for COVID-19 symptoms. This shortage continued through September 2020 and resulted in MDC Brooklyn struggling to meet the medical needs of non–COVID-19 inmates. According to a review team sent by the BOP Central Office, 125 inmate sick call requests from March had not been scheduled or seen as of May 1. MDC Brooklyn Health Services staff indicated that sick call wait times increased significantly due to COVID-19, as the institution faced a much higher volume of sick calls compared to the year prior.

  • Although MDC Brooklyn officials complied with initial and subsequent BOP directives implementing CDC guidance on the use of face coverings, we found that in April and May some Health Services providers were unable to obtain the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 respirators and gowns, to evaluate inmates with COVID-19 symptoms and treat them in medical isolation.

  • According to results from the late April OIG survey, MDC Brooklyn staff respondents were far more likely than BOP-wide staff respondents to report an immediate need for additional PPE, staff, or cleaning supplies. Specifically, 90 percent of MDC Brooklyn respondents reported an immediate need for more PPE for staff, compared to 68 percent of BOP-wide respondents; 71 percent reported an immediate need for additional staff to cover posts, compared to 39 percent of BOP-wide respondents; and 61 percent reported an immediate need for more cleaning supplies, compared to 34 percent of BOP-wide respondents. We describe these findings in greater detail, and other observations we made during our inspection, in the Inspection Results section of this report.

    Read the full report here.