Since it opened in 1975, many of the nation’s most notorious detainees — including John Gotti, Bernie Madoff, Ramzi Yousef, and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán — have been held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center as they’ve awaited trial in the U.S. district courts of New York. (One infamous guest, Jeffrey Epstein, infamously did not make it out.) But according to a Department of Justice statement provided to the New York Daily News, the brutalist concrete tower known as the Guantanamo of New York will close “at least temporarily” following decades of dysfunction.
The 12-story federal facility in lower Manhattan where overcrowding has frequently been reported could close as early as September; the jail is currently below capacity with 263 inmates, though previous highs have been closer to 800. Over the past year, the Daily News reports that more than 100 inmates have been moved to the Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn. The majority of detainees will be transferred to MDC in Sunset Park, which was initially built to solve overcrowding at MCC. The decision to close the lock-up comes weeks after a visit by deputy attorney general Lisa Monaco to observe the conditions “given ongoing concerns.”
“In an effort to address the issues at MCC NY as quickly and efficiently as possible, the Department has decided to close the MCC, at least temporarily, until those issues have been resolved,” a DOJ spokeswoman said in a statement. “Planning for the deactivation is under way, and we will have more updates as that process continues.”
In addition to reports of overcrowding and filthy conditions, the MCC has faced several crises since alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in a cell while on suicide watch in August 2019. In the wake of the failure to safely detain the financier, the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general launched an inquiry into his death; two of the guards on duty eventually cut a deal avoiding incarceration for allegedly falsifying reports claiming they did make security checks on Epstein when they were actually sleeping and shopping online. In February 2020, the facility went into a seven-day lockdown after a gun was trafficked into the building — a breach for which no one has been charged. And in December 2020, an officer was sentenced to three years in prison for sexually abusing seven female inmates.