MANHATTAN, NY — Prisoners at Manhattan’s largest federal jail complex are going on a hunger strike after being denied family visitation rights as a result of the federal government shutdown, according to reports.
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Staffing shortages at the Metropolitan Correctional Center — located in lower Manhattan within a cluster of city, state and federal buildings and courthouses — have forced the jail to cancel family visitation for the complex’s roughly 800 prisoners for two straight weeks, the New York Times first reported. On Monday, some prisoners responded to the move by beginning a hunger strike, the Times reported.
A lawyer representing one of the striking prisoners told the Times: “They have already refused a meal — I believe they refused breakfast and lunch.”
The lawyer, a federal public defender named Sarah Baumgartel, told the Times that the strike may just be confined to one of the jail’s units, and that her client got involved “because of the importance of everyone having their visits.”
The government shutdown has also resulted in less recreation time for prisoners and the inability to properly prescribe prisoner’s medications, the Times reported. In some instances, inmates scheduled for physicians visits have received no care because no doctors are working, according to the report.
The Metropolitan Correctional Center houses both male and female inmates and has a current population of about 815 prisoners, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Family visits at the jail complex are limited to inmates’ immediate family, relatives such as grandparents, uncles and aunts and other acquaintances such as friends, employers, lawyers and members of religious and civic groups. All visitors must be approved by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, according to the agency.
Notable current and former inmates at the federal complex include Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, accused terrorist Sayfullo Saipov and Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the online dark-money marketplace “Silk Road.”
Read the full NY Times story here.
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