#DeeperThanWater statement on the current heating crisis at MDC Brooklyn

At the present moment, approximately 1,600 people are being held captive in freezing temperatures at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY. As temperatures in New York have gone down as low as 2°F, those detained inside report that internal temperatures are not much better, with prisoners using extra socks as gloves and wrapping themselves in whatever material they can to keep warm. While spokespersons for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) acknowledges a “partial power outage” may be responsible, they simultaneously have denied that heat nor hot water has been an issue. However, in addition to the the allegations of prisoners, families and defense attorneys, even the officers union and employees at the prison acknowledge the existence, prevalence and severity of the problem.

Extreme temperatures are nothing new in jails and prisons, nor are they ever acknowledged by state actors when accounts of these temperatures surface. As reported over the summer, prisoners in Massachusetts and around the country experienced severe heat inside MA state prisons, with temperatures going up to 115°F inside. In August 2018, the Department of Correction in Massachusetts quietly installed thousands of dollars of fans and ventilation equipment after a surprise inspection of three facilities was conducted by the Department of Public Health in response to the aforementioned heat crisis. Despite the surprise visits, the Department of Public Health claimed that it lacked jurisdiction over the issue, as no clear temperature limit is defined on law books.

In 2017, a viral video surfaced of prisoners screaming for help during a heat wave similar to the one described in Massachusetts. Despite the thousands of views by YouTube visitors worldwide, the State refused to acknowledge the existence of the problem. In Texas, a court settlement between the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC) and the family of a prisoner who died from heat stroke has led to the slow implementation of air conditioning systems within the TDCJ to prevent further deaths. However, despite the installation of cooling units, the TDCJ has set the maximum temperature for 88°F, well above any guidelines set for any other air-conditioned building licensed to house human beings.  Daniel Holt of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School writes in 2015:

“Within a week of his transfer the indoor heat index hit 150°F and McCollum died of heatstroke. Earlier in the week, Douglas Hudson, 62, had died from heatstroke after three days at the Joe F. Gurney Transfer Facility in Anderson County, Texas. Two weeks later, Kenneth James, 52, also died from heatstroke three days after arriving at Gurney. A year later, Rodney Adams, 45, died from heatstroke the day after he arrived at Gurney.”

The use of extreme cold however has an even more insidious history within the carceral state. While the state murder of transgender woman Roxana Hernández sparked a public outcry, the state continues to use the “ice box” cells that led to the pneumonia that killed her within 5 days. Prisoners in US military detention have been forced to stand, kneel or squat in front of air conditioners at the highest possible setting while soaking wet for days at a time. Use of extreme cold are such a long tradition in detention centers and jails that they are typically referred to in internal documentation as simply “cold cells”.

Prisoners in so-called “Health Services Units”– units that ostensibly exist to keep prisoners at risk of self-injury from attempting suicide– remain at increased risk. In these units, prisoners are typically forbidden from wearing clothing and often have no sheets nor blankets. Minimized movement by physical restraints (nicknamed “turtle suits” by prisoners who have had to endure them) increases the risk of both overheating and freezing, as it disallows movement that might allow prisoners to move their muscles and maintain adequate blood flow.

Please find resources below/on the sidebar for how to participate in a national call-in campaign to end this needless suffering on the part of our loved ones inside MDC Brooklyn. We stand with our comrades and demand that this ends now. Lives depend on it.


Phone zap numbers:

Warden Quay & Associate Warden Ortiz at 718-840-4200
  US Marshall Assistant Chief McFarland at 718-840-4200 ext. 41740 

  Federal Bureau of Prisons:
  718.840.4200 x4740 for Nicole McFarland
  718.840.4740 for Adam Johnson

[ numbers per twitter sources. contact deeperthanwater@protonmail.com for any inaccuracies ]

Follow live on Twitter:

search hashtags: #MDCBrooklyn , #UntilThereIsHeat , #ShutdownMDC

Rally and occupation:

Remembering Alex Phillips

We are heartbroken to share that one of our dear friends, comrades and organizers, Alex Phillips has died of advanced colon, liver, lung and pancreatic cancer. Alex’s death comes one month after Alex made history as the first person to win compassionate release in the State of Massachusetts. Alex is survived by his mother Ann, who is a part of the #DeeperThanWater family.

While inside, Alex was heavily involved in exposing the poisonous water and inadequate medical care at the DOC, as well as for his role in the fight to reinstate real education inside. Alex was chair of the Norfolk Inmate Council’s Education Committee. An example of the committee’s incredible work can be found here [PDF]. In June 2018, Alex graduated Magna Cum Laude from Boston University’s Metropolitan College via BU’s Prison Education Program. Alex was the commencement speaker for his class.

Prior to his death, Alex was part of the effort to successfully bring back MCI-Norfolk’s legendary debate team, once home to Malcolm X during his brief incarceration at MCI-Norfolk. Alex and his teammates were featured on Morning Edition on the historic relaunch of the debate team:

From WBUR: He and his fellow debaters achieved their record against teams visiting from the likes of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, West Point, McGill and even the acclaimed Oxford University, whose undefeated 1959 string across America ended in Norfolk.” [ link ]

Prior to Alex’s release, he applied for two compassionate release petitions with the Department of Correction, both of which were denied. At the time of the second denial, the legitimacy of Alex’s illness was put on trial by Commissioner of Correction Thomas Turco III, a man largely responsible for the inaction that led to Alex’s early death. Turco deliberately misrepresented Alex’s psychological assessments during the decision-making process as documented by WBUR, and openly dismissed Alex’s entire team of highly qualified oncologists, saying that Alex did not appear to be sick enough. Six weeks later, Alex passed away.

Alex was released in October in large part due to a final CAT scan that revealed that the cancer the DOC fought so hard to ignore had invaded every part of his body. Two weeks prior to Alex’s death, he was being appraised of the vigil planning for Roger Herbert, a man who had been in Alex’s unit, who died from the same fatal condition. #DeeperThanWater is aware of a startling trend in prisoners at MCI-Norfolk who have been diagnosed with late-stage, fatal cancer. Alex spent his last weeks as he lived, working to end the epidemic of neglect and toxic conditions now claiming the people who became part of his family inside.

We do not have words enough to describe the feeling that comes from Alex’s passing. While we are forever grateful that Alex didn’t die inside MCI-Norfolk, we know that it pained him to the end that others were denied the chance that he was given. And we also join in the larger discussion asking why so many people are now dying. While there is no way to know exactly how or when Alex’s cancer formed, we know these things:

  1. Before entering MCI-Norfolk, he was 19 years old, and in excellent health as far as any physician had been able to determine.
  2. A little over ten years later, Alex’s body was ravaged by cancer.

  3. About two years ago, Alex began to experience excruciating pain and asked multiple times to see a physician. By the time Alex was taken to a qualified oncologist, he was given a year to live.

  4. During Alex’s incarceration with cancer, he was denied access to vital pain management medication prescribed by his doctors. Instead, Alex had to purchase his own over-the-counter NSAIDs via the canteen, NSAIDs that are medically contraindicated for hepatically compromised patients. Alex was forced to choose between slowing his accelerating illness, and managing his pain.

As we grieve, we look to a long history within radical organizing that says that that we can most honor the people that die by refocusing on the struggles they represented while they were alive. To quote visionary author and activist Cindy Milstein:

“Only because we fight- against losses that shouldn’t happen, and for spaces to grieve together in cities that increasingly isolate us and care for nothing. We fight not only for quality of life. We struggle for quality of death, for lives and deaths of our own making and mourning. We battle for a return to natural loss, such as the change of seasons and the seasons of life.”  [ Rebellious Mourning ]


Help make the DOC more transparent

In our experience, no matter what the state, the DOC is hard to get a hold of. We want to help fix that! Have you interacted with someone in a state/local prison? Please fill out this form, and help us grow a crowd-sourced open directory. Entries will be cross-checked before they go live, so please include a source if you can!


If at a specific prison, please indicate which one
(if obtained online)

End Medical neglect in Massachusetts Prisons

Update: November 13, 2018

Thank you to everyone who came out to support Roger and call for an end to the medical neglect that is killing our loved ones and community members inside.

Balloons for Roger [ Vimeo ]


original interview here: Boston Neighborhood News. Backup: [ Mayfirst MP4 ]

original post: November 1, 2018

Medical neglect is prevalent in Massachusetts Department of Corrections and killing prisoners – our loved ones and family members. This week, we heard Roger Herbert’s story through his niece, Sophia Bishop-Rice. We demand justice for our fallen.

Roger has been held prisoner by the DOC for 28 years, and died two weeks ago at age 48. He is remembered by Sophia, his twin brother Ronald and found family inside prison as a role model, loyal, deeply compassionate and self-sacrificing.

Roger’s health began deteriorating noticeably in April of 2018, suffering from jaundice, a persistent cough and rapid weight loss. At $4 per visit, he consistently chose repeated medical visits over purchasing necessities like food and hygiene products at canteen or purchasing phone minutes to communicate with family members.

The DOC refused to provide any further testing until Sophia demanded it directly from the DOC Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner. Even then, Roger and his family received no diagnoses or further information for weeks after an MRI was conducted. It was only after he collapsed in the showers at MCI Norfolk in September that he was finally told he had angiosarcoma. Although she was his health care proxy and emergency contact, Sophia was only informed of Roger’s hospitalization after she tried to add money to his phone account and found he was at Lemuel Shattuck Hospital.

In his final weeks, Roger and Sophia were granted just one visit per week at the hospital. The superintendent granted one additional visit per week, but denied Sophia’s attempt at a third visit the week of Roger’s death because it was not “imminent” by the DOC’s definition.

During his “compassionate care treatment” at the hospital, he suffered inhumanely: medication affecting his bowels caused him to have diarrhea all over himself and his attempt for five minutes to use his nurse call button, which was found to be broken – even though he was supposedly on fifteen minute eye checks and two hour in-room service. During Sophia’s Wednesday visit, his required oxygen supply was not in place and he fell once the week before and once the week of his death due to inattention and consistent neglect.

His found family inside prison, his brother, and his niece all describe how he spent his 28 years in prison working tirelessly to support the other people inside. Those of you who follow our work know that those 28 years were also marked by deteriorating and toxifying water conditions at MCI Norfolk and other Massachusetts prisons. Directly or indirectly, environmental contamination and medical neglect and abuse led to Roger’s death.

To get at the magnitude of the person who has been taken from us: In a beautiful act of solidarity, his loved ones inside – those with jobs making at most $3/day, or receiving cash assistance from family member who find it difficult to make ends meet – pulled together enough money to cover his cremation and memorial expenses, a little over $2,000.00. Sparing his neice the daunting task of trying to raise the money.

We hold close all of those who escape the clutches of the Massachusetts DOC. And we grieve those who die at their hands.

We also call you to action – on Sunday, November 11, immediately following Roger’s memorial service, we will host a vigil and speak out to share the stories of those we have lost and fight like hell for the living.

Alex Phillips denied second petition for compassionate release

In the same heartless manner that Thomas Turco III has historically shown, he has elected to turn down Alexander Phillip’s second petition for compassionate release.   Ann Burke, Alex’s mother wrote on The Factual’s Facebook page:

“Good morning, 

We received an answer late yesterday afternoon.. once again Alex was denied release to come home. The answer came in 8 pages of Bullshit. Turco actually said:

 “I do not believe Mr.Phillips is Terminally ill within the meaning of the statute. Specfically, even though Alex’s Oncologist, who is employed by the DOC, wrote that he has less than 12 months to live and is so incapacitated as to not be a threat to public safety, I ( Turco) do not find him so debilitated as to not be a public safety risk” 

Alex is unable to open a package of cookies or a juice bottle. As you heard on NPR, he spends most of his time in bed only up to get medications or food. If you want to do something Call or Write to your local elected officials and ask them to make modifications to the current statue or to create a bill for Alex to let him come home. And Ask them to Do It Now!! Not in January when they are back in Full Session. Call or write the Governor.. who didn’t want this statue and is making an example out of Alex. 

I cannot tell you how sad I am and my family.. This is Not a Political Game, this is someone’s Life.”


We at the #DeeperThanWater Coalition join Ann in expressing our profound anger and disgust, not only at this decision, but at a system so soulless that it would make private promises to a family experiencing tremendous hardship only to betray them in a time of need. Turco demonstrates in this decision his unwillingness and disinterest in rehabilitation, as well as the arbitrariness of his decisions and policies. To disregard the professional opinion of doctors, therapists and psychologists, to misrepresent the findings of the 2009 “dangerousness assessment” (as was reported by WBUR) and to then publicly make a statement defaming a dying man is a perfect microcosm of Tom Turco’s approach to “correction”.

A career political bureaucrat, Turco has gone out of his way to silence prisoners who speak out about their rights and to punish those who suggest that there must be a better way to do this.

In many ways, Alex represents a fundamental threat to people like Tom Turco, as he demonstrates the tremendous possibility for self-change that people have. People like Turco, who is dependent on the prison industrial complex for power and wealth, have made an empire out of reassuring the public that the possibility for self-change does not exist. It is because of him that the recidivism rate in Massachusetts is so high. After all, if someone like Alex Phillips, who has been a “model prisoner” cannot receive compassion from the DOC, what incentive do prisoners have to better their lives?

In reporting  on the first time Turco denied Alex’s release, Boston Globe journalist Yvonne Abraham wrote on June 28, 2018:

He has also been a model prisoner, participating in every program he could find, tutoring other inmates, and recently receiving a bachelor’s degree from Boston University. Greenberg says he has not been involved in a single fight in 10 years.

If he is released, Phillips’s mother, Ann Burke, an oncology nurse who has worked in hospice, would care for her son in her home, and would buy him private health insurance, so that his care would not be a burden to taxpayers. Norfolk’s superintendent, who knows Phillips and can well assess whether he poses a danger to society, has supported his release.


Abraham’s article was called “At Department of Correction, a Death of Compassion” and can be found here. This past Thursday, Alex and Ann appeared on NPR to talk about the pain of waiting to find out if Alex can come home.

#DeeperThanWater is committed to continuing to fight for Alex to come home and is in the process of organizing a response to the (admittedly predictable) ongoing refusal of the state to act justly.

8/23 day of action in solidarity with the National Prison Strike

Thanks to everyone who came out last Thursday, August 23, 2018 for our demo in solidarity with the National Prison Strike, happening 8/21-9/9. The morning began with a banner drop on the bridge over the Science Park MBTA station, overlooking Storrow Drive/I-93.

The evening had a demonstration at Nashua Street Jail, a county lockup that is also used for prisoners awaiting trial. The evening was kicked off hearing from #DeeperThanWater organizer Wayland “X” Coleman, speaking live from NCCI Gardner, a medium security prison in central Massachusetts. Many of the speakers at this rally were currently incarcerated, whose voices were fed live through a sound system into an array of 3 50-watt megaphones that could be heard for nearly a mile. Participants also included a live brass band, and Siham Byah, who was detained and eventually deported by ICE for her activism in the greater Boston area. Please support Siham here.

We want to thank all our comrades: endorsing organizations, medics, banner droppers, and everyone who supported us with logistics, promotion and running of this event.

Please stay tuned for what comes next in the National Prison Strike and support the strike! Next: IWOC providence is holding an event on Sept. 1st, and IWW CT will be holding another one between Sept. 7th-9th. Also please join our comrades at the Harvard TPS coalition as they fight for Rigoberto, and Hungry4Justice as they rally outside South Bay.


Wayland “X” Coleman kicks off the festivities for August 23rd demo. X finishes with a salute to a comrade who was stolen by the state, and is currently being held as a political prisoner. One of the main charges against him is the use of the phrase “shut this sh*thole down.”
Second Line Brass Band provides a musical interlude and noise demo at the entrance to the facility.
A #DeeperThanWater organizer addresses the crowd and the guards directly about the hypocrisy of mass incarceration in a country that lays such claim to “freedom” and “liberty.”
Doris, from the Harvard TPS coalition speaks about family separation through prisoners, jails and deportations. Doris connects all struggles for liberation.
Siham Byah, an organizer who was deported by ICE fascists earlier in the year speaks to the crowd from Morocco about the intersection of wage theft, prison slavery and racist deportations.

Heat wave

We are one week into the national #prisonstrike as temperatures rise to 97 degrees in Boston today, with a heat index of 105. An excessive heat warning is in effect until Wednesday evening, schools are cancelling classes or scheduling early dismissals, and forecasters are calling the heat levels dangerous.

Meanwhile, since we forced the state to acknowledge the heat in the prisons last month, we have been hearing from more and more folks inside and from their loved ones that the temperatures in the prisons remain unlivable and inhumane. Today, temperatures are likely to reach 110 degrees inside the prisons, where we also know there is no clean water, no air conditioning, and fan access only for those who can afford it.

Last month, we made enough noise that the Department of Public Health (DPH) conducted inspections of three prisons in MA: Norfolk, Walpole, and Concord. Two of the three prisons were cited for violating ventilation standards. After the DPH inspections it was revealed that the exhaust system was used only sparingly in one facility, as officials cited the noise it makes as a possible security concern. While in at least one facility fans were installed in every block, a couple of fans for a 45 person unit is at best, woefully insufficient.

We know that temperatures are excessive in prisons all across the country and all across the state — and more than just these 2 are violating environmental health standards.

The first demand of the national prison strike is: Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.” In alignment with this demand, it is time to turn the heat back up on the DOC. Please join us by emailing the DPH to demand inspections of ALL state prisons and by calling Charlie Baker to demand Thomas Turco, Commissioner of the Department of Correction, be fired for allowing this human rights abuse to occur.  


EMAIL: Rebecca White, Executive Assistant to Associate Commissioner Lindsay Tucker

Dear Rebecca,

Last month, the DPH conducted inspections of MCI-Norfolk, MCI-Cedar Junction, and MCI-Concord after receiving multiple complaints from incarcerated people and their loved ones. We know that the DPH cited MCI-Cedar Junction and MCI-Concord for violations of ventilation standards and made recommendations to the DOC for improving conditions.

We need more.

As temperatures rise again this week to dangerous levels, we demand inspections of the heat and of the water DURING this heatwave at ALL state prisons, including Framingham, Plymouth, Shirley, Gardner, Old Colony, Pondville, and Souza-Baranowski. We demand follow-up and accountability for the DOC to actually improve conditions, particularly excessive temperatures and brown water, by installing air conditioning and fans in all units and providing prisoners with free, clean bottled water and personal fans that they may permanently keep in their cells. The humanity of imprisoned people must be recognized.


[your name]

Send email automatically (don’t forget to add your name at the end)


CALL SCRIPT: Baker’s Office: (617) 725-4005

Hello, my name is __________. And I am a concerned voter in [your town/neighborhood]. I have been informed that prisoners in MA do not have access to air conditioning, fans, or clean water. This is yet another example of environmental racism on the part of the state of Massachusetts and the DOC.

I demand that you immediately terminate Commissioner Turco. Further, you must instruct the DOC to install air conditioning and fans in all units and provide prisoners with free, clean bottled water and personal fans.

Boycott now! Aug 21 – Sept 9

As you know, we launched a poll to ask you all who YOU wanted to boycott for the duration of the National Prison Strike. Per ask from national organizers, we selected 3 companies. However, as the 3rd place was a tie, and we had a sincere request to really target Bank of America based on the role predatory lending and eviction are used as tactics to round up undocumented comrades to fill detention centers, we have agreed that we have no choice but to call for all 4. The “winners” of our poll are Amazon.com, Exxon/Mobil, McDonald’s and Bank of America.

Amazon’s overwhelming lead in the poll is in large part a result of Amazon’s recent disgusting announcement last month that they are “proud” to continue to provide logistics and material support to the mass incarceration and deportation machine.  Amazon is not only a massive distributor of prison-made goods, but they own companies that directly source to prison workers for pennies an hour. Their role in developing facial recognition software for police, ICE and prisons has been crucial to making the world a substantially more dangerous place for marginalized people.


#prisonstrike boycott poll

The national call for action has asked that local groups pick three companies to boycott. We have compiled this list from Popular Resistance , as suggested in the national call. Please pick up to three companies you both patronize and would be willing to boycott for 8/21 – 9/9.

Please note that we have also only included in this poll companies that are locally accessible. There is a shocking number of total complicit organizations. We have also included Amazon.com. We see Amazon’s direct dealings with ICE as a massive pillar of the prison industrial complex and the prison slavery machine. As Cosecha has pointed out undocumented migrants are often forced to work for no pay in private prisons during their detention. This is slavery.


Please note that the full list is available at https://popularresistance.org/identifying-businesses-that-profit-from-prison-labor/ For the sake of localizing our boycott endorsements, we have tried to only include companies that people in and around Massachusetts would be able to boycott directly. If something is missing from this list that is of local interest, please contact info@deeperthanwater.org