Last month, we learned that that great state of Texas would rather let prisoners die of heat stroke than install air conditioning in its state prisons, because, hey, who cares, honestly? One reader pointed us to a related Texas prison story that is even worse: a facility with no water.
Part of the Connally Unit (pictured), a prison in Kenedy, TX, was shut down last month because of "chronic staffing shortages and water outages." You need only reflect on Texas' general lack of sympathy for prisoners to realize how bad the conditions in Connally must have been for the state of Texas to take such a drastic step.
Jason Clark, the spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, described the incident to Gawker like so:
Last month, the agency took 4 dorms (376 beds) temporarily off line at the Connally unit in Karnes County. We have sufficient capacity to temporarily idle these beds without causing a capacity problem. The offenders were absorbed into the existing capacity. We are doing this to help deal with staffing challenges at the unit. There have been recent issues with the city water supply, but this action is related to the number of correctional officer vacancies, not water."
Regarding the water shortage issue, he told us:
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice recognizes its responsibility to provide an adequate water supply to offenders and staff regardless of service interruptions by the city. When notified of the impending water loss the agency acted swiftly and brought in three 500 gallon water trucks and a six thousand gallon water tanker. Consumable water and ice were placed in Igloo's and distributed throughout the unit. Throughout the water interruption, offenders had access to drinking water. Although water pressure has been restored, these resources remain at the unit and are on standby in case they're needed. The unit has resumed normal operations with the exception of a shower schedule. The City of Kenedy has requested that the unit continue to conserve water. Offenders are showering every other day. All offenders working are afforded an opportunity to shower daily. TDCJ has been informed by the City of Kenedy that it intends to drill another well, but a completion date is unknown at this time. We continue monitoring the situation and work with various local and state partners on the water supply issue at the Connally Unit.
That's the official word. Connally has been plagued by water rationing, cutbacks on inmate showers and toilet flushing, and the forced use of bag lunches because the kitchen could not be operated. Here is how the recent atmosphere at Connally was described to us by a reader who works with families of inmates held there:
The Connally Unit has been off and on without water for over a month now. All father's day visits were canceled... The women were frantic (those with loved in Connally). They couldn't get answers, they couldn't visit. The men were locked up in cells 23 hours a day in over 100 degree heat with no A/C and warm sack lunches of green bologna. No water with just a few bottles. Peeing in cups, not able to flush. It was a health hazard. Not enough staff and current staff not showing up. We all sent emails to Senator Whitmore who could care less. We put in formal complaints to the Omsbudman office which emailed back a letter that all was taken care of - bullshit. If two men stuck together in solitary confinement in over 100 degree heat with no airflow and green bologna with no way of even flushing a toilet isn't considered cruel and unusual punishment I don't know what is.
Summer in Texas. If you have any more information on life in the Connally Unit, email me.