A Justice Department spokesman said in a statement to CNN that the department was committed to ensuring that the facilities in the federal prison system are “safe and secure.”
“As part of this effort, the Bureau of Prisons has assessed the necessary steps to improve conditions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in New York City,” the spokesman said. “In an effort to resolve the issues at MCC NY as quickly and efficiently as possible, the department has decided to close MCC, at least temporarily, until these issues have been resolved.”
“Disabling planning is underway and we will have more updates as the process continues,” the statement said.
There are currently 263 inmates housed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, according to the Bureau of Prisons website.
David Patton, chief executive officer and attorney general of the New York federal defense, welcomed the government’s decision to temporarily close the facility, saying it “has been a disgrace for many years.”
“It’s cramped, dark and unhygienic. The building is falling apart. Chronic shortage of medical staff means people suffer for longer periods of time when they have acute medical problems,” Patton said, adding that he is concerned about the Metropolitan Detention Center, a nearby federal prison in Brooklyn, “suffer many of the same problems.”
“If they do not solve these problems at MDC, this step will accomplish nothing and nearly 2,000 people will continue to be subjected to truly inhuman treatment,” Patton said.
Edward Friedland, district court chief of the Southern District of New York who works closely with the Metropolitan Correctional Center, told CNN that the court was not made aware of the closure of the facility “until after media investigations.”
“Following several inquiries from the court, we were notified late today of BOP’s plans to close the facility,” Friedland said in a statement. “We will meet with BOP officials to review their plan so that we can ensure all necessary access for attorneys to their clients and the opportunity for defendants to show up on time as required by the court.”
Tyrone Covington, the union representative for detectives at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, said he was disappointed that no one had reached out to inform them of such a major decision.
“I am disappointed with the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons for simply not notifying us of such a major decision, even though we believe it is something that should have happened,” Covington told CNN Thursday night. “But you should have told us that.”
“The union did not know and no one in the management locally knew or was not made aware of” the decision, he added.
The move comes weeks after Attorney General Lisa Monaco visited the Metropolitan Correctional Center “to get a first-hand look at its operations and infrastructure given ongoing concerns,” according to a Justice Department statement released earlier this month.
This story has been updated with further developments.
CNN’s Christina Carrega and Mark Morales contributed to this report.