In a ground breaking decision, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison ruled that Texas state corrections were aware of the dangerous and lethal heat risks in their prisons and that at least 23 men in Texas prisons have died from the heat in the last 20 years.
For the past four years, PrisonPath has posted numerous articles about inmates dying from extreme heat in Texas prisons. We posted in 2014, that a report by the Texas Law School’s Human Rights Clinic, revealed 19 deaths that occurred in Texas prisons, since 1998, from heat related causes. Dead inmates were found in prison cells with temperatures varying from 115 degrees to 149 degrees Fahrenheit.
One inmate, Alexander Togonidre, was found dead in his cell with a body temperature of 106 degrees. In 2011, ten Texas inmates died of hyperthermia. Hyperthermia occurs, when the body temperature rises above 105 degrees.
Federal Judge Ellison severely criticized the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for violating the Eighth Amendment (prohibits cruel & unusual punishment) by exposing inmates at the Wallace Pack Unit south, a geriatric prison, to temperatures in excess of 100 degrees during the summer.
Texas is the largest state-run prison system in the United States. The state has over 150,000 inmates, and about 18,000 exceed the age of 55. The Texas prison system has expanded from 18 prisons in 1978 to 106 prisons in 2017. Only 28 prisons have air conditioning in all housing areas.
Texas is not the only offender of subjecting inmates to excessive heat. Many state prisons suffer from the same problem to different degrees. This week, the public saw a video with inmates at a St. Louis city jail screaming for help from their building that lacked air conditioning. On that hot day, the temperature was in the nineties. On July 22, this past Saturday, the temperature in St. Louis was 108 degrees.
“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