Inmates launch hunger strike after shutdown prevents family visits: report 

Inmates launch hunger strike after shutdown prevents family visits: report 
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Inmates at a high-security federal jail in Manhattan have reportedly launched a hunger strike this week after the partial government shutdown led to family visits being cancelled.

The shutdown has caused staffing shortages at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), where family visits have been canceled for two weeks in a row, The New York Times reported.

Sarah Baumgartel, a federal public defender, said she learned of the hunger strike from a client who is participating. Her client reportedly told her that he wanted to participate “because of the importance of everyone having their visits.”

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Details about the hunger strike are limited, with Baumgartel saying it may be limited to one unit in the jail, according to The Times. The MCC houses 800 detainees. 

Lawyers have also been prevented from visiting with their clients at a federal jail in Brooklyn during the shutdown, the newspaper reported.

Adam Johnson, a lawyer for the Bureau of Prisons, emailed defense lawyers on Monday to notify them that they would not be able to visit with inmates at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center because of “staff shortages.”

“We regret the inconvenience and will notify you immediately once visiting resumes,” Johnson wrote, according to The Times.

This is the seventh time in a month that attorney visits have been cancelled or delayed, The Times reported.

The Hill has reached out to the Federal Bureau of Prisons for comment. 

The federal defender office in New York is looking into possible bail requests for inmates, David Patton, the head of the office, told The Times.

“We’re not talking about fancy luxury items here,” Patton said. “We’re talking about being able to converse with your attorney when you haven’t yet been convicted of a crime. We’re talking about being able to see your children or your spouse or your parents.”

“This is the absolute lowest baseline we should expect of a government when it detains people and assumes responsibility for their well-being,” he added. 

Edward Friedland, a spokesman for the Manhattan federal court, told the newspaper that that court is "obviously concerned with the impact that the shutdown is having on defense counsels’ ability to see their clients.” 

The American Federation of Government Employees represents about 200 correctional workers and employees at MCC.

Serene Gregg, president of the local chapter, told The Times that recreation time and access to doctors for inmates has been cut down or cancelled. The shutdown has also affected medication distribution.

“We are providing inadequate medical care at this point,” Gregg said. “We don’t have the medical providers to see them.”

Roughly 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or forced to work without pay during the government shutdown, which was triggered on Dec. 22 over funding negotiations for President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE's border wall.