Repairs are underway at the D.C. Department of Corrections -- where people are housed after being arrested -- after the facility went days without air conditioning.
The dangerous situation came to light publicly Monday morning but had been going on since Saturday.
“[They were] begging for water,” Miranda Rosenfelt, of community jail support, said. “They could see the guards had multiple fans in their areas, but were not distributing them among the inmates.”
Rosenfelt was so alarmed that they picked up their phone and began recording what people leaving the Central Cell Block were saying.
The videos, posted in real time to Rosenfelt’s Twitter feed, described an environment so hot and airless, people could barely breathe. Some started to fall ill.
One woman even had what a witness described as multiple seizures.
"She had five seizures," the woman said in a video posted to Twitter. "They were treating her like trash. No water, nothing."
The D.C. Department of Corrections facility is below ground between D.C. Superior Court and D.C. Police Headquarters.
Those arrested are held, sometimes overnight or longer on weekends, before appearing in court to face charges.
Members of the community jail support meet there Mondays to provide assistance with phone calls, transportation and even food to the newly released.
In addition to sounding the alarm on the broken AC, the group claims insect infestation continues to be a health threat.
“[We heard] the woman who had the seizure had to have two roaches removed from her ear. I can only assume that they crawled in there while she was seizing on the ground," Rosenfelt said.
The Department of Corrections released a statement that reads, in part, “We are aware of the HVAC issues at the Central Cell Block (located at Daly Building) and are working with the Department of General Services on completing repairs. In the interim, all residents will be moved to police district stations until the situation is resolved.”
Members of the community jail support have previously testified before the D.C. Council about the need for systemic changes to the way the District houses people after arrests.