Texas Prisons Are Hot Enough to Kill You

The state of Texas has strict rules about how to handle dangerous heat on pig farms; not so in their non-air-conditioned prisons, where 14 inmates have reportedly died of heat exposure since 2007. A new report says the state is doing nothing to address the issue.

Today's report from the Human Rights Clinic of the University of Texas School of Law finds that "In spite of repeated, serious, and egregious incidents, the TDCJ has yet to implement measures that effectively mitigate heat-related injury in inmate housing," and concludes that "current conditions in TDCJ facilities constitute a violation of Texas's duty to guarantee the rights to health, life, physical integrity, and dignity of detainees, as well as its duty to prevent inhuman or degrading treatment of its inmates." It recommends "installation of air conditioning units to keep temperatures in inmate housing areas below 85 °F"—a fairly modest goal, and a standard that most people would probably be shocked to find is not already met in the heat of Texas summers. A sample of the conditions in the metal-walled state prisons:

Recent TDCJ temperature logs have recorded heat indices surpassing 100 °F by 8:30 in the morning. Even if the climate remained in this state for the entire day, inmates already would be facing heat indices that the [National Weather Service] has identified as approaching with extreme caution due to an increased likelihood of heat-related injury. In some instances, records also show that air temperatures outside some TDCJ facilities have spiked above 110 °F by 10:30AM, resulting in a heat index exceeeding 149 °F. These temperatures can remain at that level for several hours;22 indeed, investigations into heat-related deaths at TDCJ facilities have found temperatures above 90 °F even past midnight. This heat far exceeds any levels of extreme danger identified by the NWS.

Also, "In 2012, 92 TDCJ correctional officers suffered heat-related injuries or illnesses." This is one of the rare issues that prison guards and prisoners can both agree on. Air condition your prisons, Texas. It really is the very least that you can do!

[Image via the report]