What to Know
- A loaded gun was found in an inmate's cell at MCC Thursday, according to federal officials, ending an eight-day search after authorities were tipped off that a weapon had been smuggled inside
- Investigators had been focusing on whether a corrections officer at MCC helped smuggle a gun to an inmate, sources previously told News 4
- The facility will remain under modified operations until all searches in every area have been finalized, the Bureau of Prisons said
A loaded gun was found in an inmate's cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center Thursday evening, ending an eight-day search after officials were tipped off that a weapon had been smuggled inside, according to a senior official and the federal Bureau of Prisons.
Other contraband was recovered over the last week as well, including cellphones, narcotics and homemade weapons, the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement Friday.
"All of these items pose a significant threat to the safety and security of the facility as well as the public," the federal agency's statement said.
The facility will continue to remain on modified operations status to finalize searches in all areas, the statement said. Partial visitation began once again on Friday, according to some visitors — some of whom were told similar stories that public defenders have heard regarding conditions. Inmates complained of getting cold sandwiches (one claimed the cold cuts were frozen and inedible on one occasion).
Visitors also said inmates reported their cells or dorms were destroyed during the searches, with urinals left broken and bedsheets taken away. Others complained about having to wash their clothes in the shower, in sinks, or even in the toilet.
Before the firearm was found, numerous pre-trial inmates had been moved from MCC to Otisville as the facility lockdown stretched over a week.
The head of the Federal Defenders Office in Manhattan said among the many inmates who had been moved to Otisville were some scheduled to be in court Thursday and Friday.
David Patton, Chief of the Federal Defenders Office, said defense lawyers still have not been able to meet with most pre-trial clients for the duration the MCC has been on lockdown.
“Let us in to see our clients,” Patton said Thursday, adding that defense attorneys are trying to “raise hell” with the MCC and through the courts to gain access to their clients.
Investigators are focusing on whether a corrections officer or staffer at MCC helped smuggle a gun to an inmate, sources previously told News 4.
Defense lawyers representing MCC inmates that were questioned by authorities previously said the focus appears to be on that theory, and the subsequent investigation has left them unable to see their clients.
The MCC issued a statement Thursday saying lawyers could begin meeting with clients again starting Friday on a floor-by floor-basis. Full attorney visits could resume next week, the Bureau of Prisons statement said.
The BOP says their officials met with the Chief Judge of the Southern District of New York, federal defenders, the U.S. Marshals and the U.S. Attorney’s office to explain the ongoing issues.
The BOP and MCC say inmates have been receiving hot meals regularly, have access to medical care and are now getting showers on a rotating basis — a statement Patton said is inaccurate. He claims many clients have been locked down for 24 hours a days for the last eight days.
Meanwhile, the BOP has said more time is needed to complete a thorough investigation. However, Patton claimed the time it has taken is a result of “pure incompetence and a total lack of concern for the constitutional rights and humane conditions” for the defendants.
"It’s worse than solitary confinement and the BOP just doesn’t give a damn,” Patton said in an email to News 4.
That hunt for the weapon forced an extensive search of the facility, both common areas and individual cells, and has prompted federal officials to bring in out-of-town teams to assist with the search. In the meantime, while the probe continues, inmates said they have been denied access to phones, computers and showers, and are getting cold sandwiches shoved through doors for food.
The BOP said that visitation from inmates' families and friends could resume later next week, or possibly sooner.