Earlier this month, the city of New York and the world watched detainees at MDC Brooklyn freeze in their cells during the most recent polar vortex. People were in awe that this high-tec, modern-day dungeon – with both the Statue of Liberty and Wall Street in view as testaments to hypocri$y – would be so crass, so brutal, so inhumane.
No heat, no food or water as detainees were locked in their cells as a result of a power outage stemming from a fire. Crowds of people gathered outside witnessing people – not inmates, people – bang on windows, shouting and crying in horror, fearing for their lives, locked away and forgotten in the 9-story Sunset Park detention facility. There were reports from the inside of pigs shaking down (i.e., ransacking) cells, looking for contraband cell-phones – the only means of communications by which prisoners, locked in their cells, could communicate their predicament to outside friends, family, and supporters.
Shouting and banging on cell doors was met with fire hoses. Terrified family members of those inside with no recourse but to rush the building and plead with the officers were pepper-sprayed.
As someone who did almost 4 years there, who left behind many loved ones over there, it made my blood boil, and yet I was not surprised at all. Warden Quay, who didn't even have the minimal amount of human compassion to provide extra blankets is the same Warden Quay who shut down the mental health unit in February 2016 – transferring vulnerable people (I say again, PEOPLE – not inmates) afflicted with Schizophrenia, Autism, PTSD, and cerebral palsy to the overcrowded general population.
Yes, I remember in the winter time they wouldn't turn the heat on even when the electricity was working. I remember how we'd complain and they’d send a cop in to wave some fake thermometer around that always stayed at 60-70 degrees. Yup, vermin and scabie-infested MDC. I remember you. I remember the beat-up squad. I remember the retaliation against anyone who raise their voice in dissent, including myself who, upon sending out an e-mail about “gang-members” on the Bronx 120 indictment being arbitrarily rounded up and sent to the SHU, had my cell ransacked by the facility’s red squad.
Better not get sick at MDC, cause medical might kill you. Everyone knows that…. Yup, MDC Brooklyn Goddamn.
And this was happening well before De Blasio and other politicians expressed their faux outrage. Well before our oppression was trending on social media. (Disclaimer: by saying that, I do not intend to belittle the support of ordinary people who, from no fault of their own, had just found out about MDC through recent events).
But if you ask the average incarcerated person, they’ll say "Yeah, you know … jail is jail." And that's what it is. This is happening all over the system in places that you've never heard of before nor dreamed of going to. MDC Brooklyn is just in your face about it – smack dab in the middle of the liberal metropolis of downtown Brooklyn – just a few blocks away from the Barclay center (I was able to see it from my cell).
The support is appreciated and much needed to make sure you ask yourself the question, and this is most sincerely directed towards specifically the white liberals who were in awe of what they saw in their progressive city: Does it bother you because we're "innocent until proven guilty,” or does it bother you simply because we're human?
One thing's for sure, two thing's for certain: You don't reform oppression, you abolish it.
So, which side are you on?