For the last three years, prisonpath.com has posted numerous articles about inmates dying from extreme heat in Texas state prisons. Between 2007 and 2015, at least 14 inmates have died in Texas from heat-related causes. One inmate, Alexander Togonidre, was found dead in his cell with a body temperature of 106 degrees.
Since 1998, some of the dead inmates were found in prison cells with temperatures varying from 115 degrees to 149 degrees. The cause of death was hypothermia (body temperature above 105 degrees).
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.
In contrast, Texas law requires that county jails in Texas keep their temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees. There is no temperature requirement for the state prisons. Present litigation is advocating that state prisons drop their temperature to 88 degrees.
In July of 2013, we discussed that Texas state 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.
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
― Nelson Mandela
By Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com