Texas inmates are suing the state due to the heat and lack of air conditioning in the jail cells. This has gotten to be fatal and has resulted in inmates becoming ill and even dying. The inmates are being represented by the Texas Civil Rights Project and the University of Texas School of Law Civil Rights clinic in the fight for cool air.
Although other state prisons are involved in the lawsuit, the focus is mainly on the Wallace Pack Unit, which is located in Navasota, Texas. The facility is approximately 70 miles northwest of Houston. Currently the prison is holding 1,400 male prisoners. Most of the prisoners are serving jail time for non-violent crimes and are over the age of 50 years old. Wallace Pack Unit is a facility where there is no source of air conditioning, other than a few selected areas, and the only source of cool air for the inmates is what passes through the barred, yet open windows. As Summer starts, at times, the inmates find that temperatures are exceedingly hotter inside than it is outside.
The inmates and their representatives are simply requesting air conditioning. In previous summers, internal temperatures have reached as high as one hundred degrees. This causes additional problems other than the men overheating. The jail cells have stainless steel sinks and toilets. As the cells become hotter, so do the appliances. This essentially becomes frustrating and uncomfortable for the inmates. Some inmates are even choosing to sleep on the concrete floors where it is slightly cooler. The requested maximum temperature would be eighty-eight degrees.
The Texas Civil Rights Project and the University of Texas School of Law Civil Rights Clinic are representing the Texas inmates as a whole as they are currently suing the state for lack of air conditioning in the prison facilities. During the peak hours of the hottest days in Texas, temperatures can reach as high as one hundred degrees if not higher. As this becomes uncomfortable for the younger inmates, the older men are feeling that much more frustrated and concerned. Some have reported that they are concerned for not just their health, but overall survival as it is a struggle to breathe in the scorching conditions.
In another request, representatives are asking that the inmates receive more water breaks, are able to wear shorter pants and additional showers as needed. This could decrease the amount of deaths that have occurred in past years. Since 2011, 12 inmates have died due to heat strokes in Texas.
Since the lawsuit, state representatives have had air conditioning systems installed into seven Texas prison facilities. Fans were also ordered and some jails have made small changes for the well-being of the prisoners. With heat conditions becoming fatal inside certain prisons, little changes will have a significant result. There are 109 prison facilities in the state of Texas. All are experiencing the same heat-related problems with their inmates simply feeling overheated and requesting for slightly cooler and comfortable conditions.
With 20 heat-related deaths occurring since 1998, Texas inmates are suing the state simply because it is too hot into the jail cells. They are not looking for anything other than facilities to become cooler as the Texas heat is making jails hotter inside than it is outside.
By Tricia Manalansan