FILE- This Jan. 8, 2017 file photo shows the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Hundreds of inmates at a federal jail in New York City have spent days in cold, dark cells amid frigid weather and without access to visitors or email, attorneys for the inmates said Friday, Feb. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
Inmates without heat for days at New York federal prison
02:26 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The Justice Department has requested an investigation after inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, spent several days without heat or lighting.

In a statement, the DOJ announced that investigators from its Office of the Inspector General would determine whether the Federal Bureau of Prisons response to the heating and electrical failures at the prison was appropriate.

“The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) are committed to the safe and humane living and working conditions of all inmates and employees,” the DOJ said.

They would also assess whether the bureau has “adequate contingency plans” in place, a DOJ statement said.

Last week, a fire in the facility’s switch gear room caused a partial power outage, leaving many inmates sitting in frigid and dark cells.

Within days, reports of alarming conditions at the prison surfaced, prompting protests and a lawsuit against the facility.

The Bureau of Prisons had said that the heat to the building was provided by a boiler, which wasn’t affected by the power outage, and that inmates had hot water in their sinks and in showers.

DOJ officials said Wednesday the bureau will review the facility’s infrastructure and its emergency response and contingency plans.

The facility houses 1,654 inmates. According to the Bureau of Prisons website, such facilities “are institutions with special missions, such as the detention of pretrial offenders; the treatment of inmates with serious or chronic medical problems; or the containment of extremely dangerous, violent, or escape-prone inmates.”

The Federal Defenders of New York, a nonprofit that represents low-income people accused of federal crimes, has filed a lawsuit against the facility claiming its clients’ constitutional rights were violated.

The lawsuit also claims the Bureau of Prisons was untruthful when it said all inmates received medical attention and that heating in the building was not affected by the power outage.

CNN’s Laura Ly contributed to this report.