State (Texas) of Emergency
In June 2023, 32 Texas prisoners died, none of which were associated with heat supposedly, the New York Times reported. Of those who died, at least five, including a 34-year-old and a 35-year-old, died of reported heart attacks of cardiac arrest in uncooled prisons when heat indexes broke triple digits, according to a Texas Tribune analysis.
Texas hasn’t officially reported a heat-related prison death in more than a decade; the last death reported was in 2012.
Statistically that doesn’t add up nor is it true. In 2022 a study published in JAMA Network Open determined than an average of 14 heat-related deaths occurred each year between 2001 and 2019 in Texas prisons that don’t have air conditioning. The study found that no deaths were associated with heat in the prisons that had air conditioning during this time period. About 70% of Texas prisons don’t have air conditioning during this time period in inmate living spaces, the Houston Chronicle reported in May. There are about 128,000 prisoners in Texas and only 42,000 have cool beds (Therapeutic cool housing).
Texas has 100 prisons (facilities); 31 had air conditioning in all housing areas as of May, and 14 had zero air conditioning in the housing areas. The remaining facilities have varying degrees of air conditioning.
The living conditions in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) lacking air conditioning is very oppressive, dangerous, and aggressively unlivable in the sweltering heat.
TDCJ implemented a policy in which the prisons have “respite areas” with air conditioning. These “respite areas” can be in the unit chapel, medical, or an education room which enables prisoners to sit in to “cool” off temporarily. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (College Edition) defines “respite” as a temporary suspension of the execution of a person condemned to death. That sounds like the definition of TDCJ!
Here are the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas (which also houses Deathrow prisoners for the state of Texas) I’ve witnessed prisoners wetting the cement floors in their cells and laying on it to get relief from sweltering temperatures.
The Texas prisons were built purposely without air conditioning. TDCJ is a $3 billion industry and has no capacity to air condition its prisons.
Texas prisons are made of concrete and steel which gets extremely hot. Temperatures inside some of the uncooled Texas prisons regularly surpass 110 degrees, topping out at a heat index of 149 degrees in one unit, according to a Texas A&M University Study using data collected between 2018 and 2020.
Comrades please understand the “respite areas”, cool showers, and ice water access is not giving daily as “policy” directs. Prisoners regularly sustain disciplinary punishment trying to acquire the cooling privileges because it is not guaranteed.
Texas has the remedy to combat the problem that only costs money. It is a simple math problem, not a complex issue. Easy solution to save humans from dying of sickness and heat-related illnesses. TDCJ saves millions in revenue each year off the free labor of prisoners but won’t invest any money to accommodate the lives of the prisoners they extort from.
TDCJ is still stuck in its 19th century blueprint and seems to be biased to the 21st century methods of air conditioning. This is a very serious problem that will turn fatal as record breaking temperatures continue to rise. If death occurs it will only be covered up and blamed on something else.
Rather than designate money specifically for air conditioning the state budget that takes effect September 2023 allots $85.7 million to TDCJ, which can be used for cooling measures, the Texas Tribune reported. Don’t hold your breath on this comrades.
In these summer months and beyond, TDCJ units are like makeshift ovens, literally. The cells are heated chambers that bake and roast human beings to exhaustion.
This matter is a state (Texas) of Emergency. To those who view this subject as that… please help.
I am drenched with perspiration as I write this. Being a prisoner in Texas is the true definition of blood, SWEAT, and tears.