Testimony: The New York City Council Committee on Health Oversight - Protecting New Yorkers from Heat and Air Quality Emergencies

Michael Klinger, Jail Services Attorney in the Criminal Defense Practice at Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), testified before The New York City Council Committee on Health Oversight on Protecting New Yorkers from Heat and Air Quality Emergencies.

The city jails have long struggled to maintain safe temperatures, whether during the cold of winter or the heat of summer. Every summer people in DOC custody report excessively hot housing units, lack of access to clean clothes, and an inability to access methods for cooling. Despite the fact that the Department issues on its website information regarding how it intends to protect the health and safety of incarcerated people during extreme heat, generally referred to as a "heat action plan," year after year those plans are not implemented consistently or effectively, exposing already-vulnerable people to extreme and dangerous conditions.


Additionally, for people in the custody of DOC, the anomalous season of smoke-filled skies was not the only air quality concern in the jails this summer, and particularly not for people with medical vulnerabilities including asthma and various heart and lung conditions. That is because the Department routinely deploys so-called “Chemical Agents,” which threaten everyone who comes into contact while not wearing protective clothing and equipment, and which pose particular and grave risks to medically vulnerable people. The Department’s directives address these risks and the need to provide protections, but the Department fails to implement these safeguards after deploying chemical agents in enclosed and densely populated housing units.

Read the testimony here.

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