For the last 12 months, prisonpath.com has posted numerous articles about inmates dying from extreme heat in Texas prisons. This issue was discussed yesterday by the founder of prisonpath.com, Bradley Schwartz, on the radio show, ‘He Said She Said’ on A.M. 1100, with the show’s dynamic hosts, Charles Martin and Nicole English. The radio hosts were shocked to learn of the high number of Texas inmates who have died from extreme heat. One inmate, Alexander Togonidre, was found dead in his cell with a body temperature of 106 degrees. In 2011, ten Texas inmates died of hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature rises above 105 degrees.
The Houston Chronicle has obtained recently a copy of a report that will be issued by the Texas Law School’s Human Rights Clinic, which has focused on 19 deaths that have occurred in Texas prisons since 1998 from heat related causes. Some of the dead inmates were found in prison cells with temperatures varying from 115 degrees to 149 degrees fahrenheit.
In July of 2013, we discussed that Texas prisons treated pigs better than inmates. The Texas prison system was paying $750,000 for six climate controlled barns for use in its pig farming program. This money was allocated although extreme heat was a death sentence for some Texas inmates.
Radio host, Charles Martin, felt that such treatment of inmates constituted “Cruel and Unusual Punishment.” The report by the law school also concluded that such treatment was a violation of American and international law protecting against cruel and unusual punishment.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has stated, “We have significant protocols in place governing the movement of offenders early in the day for work assignments, we supply ice water and have fans and other equipment to increase air movement,” he said. “We believe the protocols are appropriate.” Other equipment does not include air conditioning.
The warden’s offices have air conditioning. Their offices are not in need of ice water and fans. Even the Correctional Officer’s union has joined with the inmates in a lawsuit demanding that the Texas state prisons be cooled to relieve unbearable conditions. Lance Lowry, president of the local American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, stated, ”These conditions are dangerous to both the employees and the inmates.” The union president stressed the unusual circumstances that brought inmates and correction officers together on the same side. Temperatures between 100 and 115 degrees during summertime are dangerous and potentially deadly for officers and inmates taking heat-sensitive medication or those who have hypertension.