Author Topic: The debate over high summer temperatures in TDCJ prisons  (Read 413 times)

Offline sunrayswench

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The debate over high summer temperatures in TDCJ prisons
« on: May 18, 2014, 03:29:47 am »
Every year, Texans suffer under severe high temperatures during the summer months (although some years the temperatures can begin to climb as early as March and not fall below 80 degrees F until well into November). Though Texas is not alone in enduring these high temperatures, it has been historically resistant to ensuring that the temperatures within TDCJ prisons remain in a sensibly tollerable range for staff and inmates alike.

Every year there is talk of how bad the conditions are, talk of court action to force TDCJ to keep the temperatures within its prisons at a sensibly tollerable level, and talk of deaths caused by the excessive heat. Equally there is talk from politicians along the lines of "plenty of people in Texas cannot afford A/C in their homes, so why should we favour inmates with it?"

Recently, the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law produced a report that studied the recorded temperatures at some TDCJ prisons, and highlighted the design and construction of TDCJ prisons as a contributing factor in the very high temperatures recorded within them. The full report can be read here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6HJLeMEu3hlSWdBdGIzaXNmTm8/edit

Some TDCJ prisons do have air conditioning, either throughout the entire prison or in sections of it. The medical facilities usually have A/C.

High temperatures are not just an issue for inmates; the TDCJ staff must work in those conditions as well, in full uniform (inmates can usually stay in T-shirt and boxer shorts when the heat is very high), and moving around the unit. However, they are able to leave the prison after their shift, and usually do not have to sleep in high temperatures as well.

The Fifth Circuit court has ruled that TDCJ can be sued for not maintaining adequate temperature controls in its prisons, and a Federal Court ruling relating to similar conditions in Louisiana could be used as a precedent if TDCJ ever finds itself in court over this matter.

Senator John Whitmire has been quoted in the media as saying that the number of inmate deaths each year is acceptable and expected due to the overall inmate population.

The design and construction of many TDCJ units does not lend itself to heat regulation by air conditioners. The cost of installation, maintenance and running of air conditioner units would be huge, and would have to be paid by the tax payers of Texas, who are notorious in their aversion to any of their money being spent on TDCJ inmates (unless it is to pay for executions, and the financial recompence for wrongful convictions). So while the regulation of heat in TDCJ prisons is a valid issue, installing air conditioner units everywhere may not be the most sensible or desirable solution.
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Offline DreamFae

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the agruement about many people not being able to afford a/c in the free world,  the NIH will tell those that can't afford A/C in their home to go to the mall or public places that have A/C.  But inmates don't have that option.  Personally the prison should at least be livable. Because i know myself person when i get hot i get very short tempered.  So if they did actually keep the conditions livable they might not have as many problem with tempers flaring. Just my opinion

Offline sunrayswench

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I agree, and that goes for the staff as well. But many of the intake units are little more than metal-clad hangers that heat up like vehicles do when it is hot outside. They don't have many, if any, windows which is good for A/C, but the size would be on a scale of a Walmart to keep cool. TDCJ will not pay for that unless absolutely forced to.

With other units, particularly Coffield which is known as the Glasshouse, there is more glass and less air movement from the fans that most cell blocks have.

Using solar panels to generate the energy to run the A/C units, and training the inmates to maintain the equipment would be a sensible option, but apparently not one that TDCJ wants to consider (TDCJ could be self-supporting for energy and produce enough to sell if it chose to be by using solar panels and wind turbines, but that's a debate for another thread :) ).
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Offline sunrayswench

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I wanted to add here that inmates in intake units and dorms are often not able to purchase fans (or other electrical items) because there are no electrical sockets to plug them in to. TDCJ inmates who spend the summer in a dorm going through intake are likely to complain the most about the summer heat.

Once they get to their CID unit, their circumstances may improve depending on the job assignment and the construction and layout of the prison. They should then also be able to purchase electrical items such as fans, but they will have to order them and wait for them to be delivered which can take a few weeks in times of high demand.
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Offline sunrayswench

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Now 4 inmates at the Pack unit have applied for a class action suit against TDCJ, as reported in the Houston Chronicle http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/New-lawsuit-Prisons-so-hot-cell-blocks-like-5561647.php

They are not specifically asking for air conditioners; the action seeks to impose a maximum temperature of 88 degrees in TDCJ units.
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Offline sunrayswench

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TDCJ Installing Coolers To Battle Heat At Prisons


HUNTSVILLE - The nation's most populous prison system, facing legal actions and criticism about inmates having to endure oppressive Texas summer heat, is looking to make conditions a bit more bearable at seven state lockups by installing cooling systems similar to those seen on the sidelines of early-season football games.

More here from kbtx.com: http://www.kbtx.com/news/local/headlines/TDCJ-Installing-Coolers-To-battle-Heat-At-Prisons-264120321.html
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Offline sunrayswench

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An update: units are placing 10 litre jugs of ice twice a day in the dayrooms and positioning fans pointing into the dayrooms, to help inmates combat the effects of the heat.
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Offline sunrayswench

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An interesting twist in the fight to hold TDCJ and its employees accountable for alleged heat-related deaths of inmates. From the TexasLawyer.com:

Is Qualified Immunity for TDCJ Officials Vulnerable?
On behalf of Texas prison officials Brad Livingston, Rick Thaler and William Stephens, the Office of the Texas Attorney General filed July 17 a motion for reconsideration of an order a federal judge issued one day earlier. The judge's order deferred a ruling on whether they could use qualified immunity as an argument to dismiss a prison wrongful death case filed against them.

Read more:
http://www.texaslawyer.com/home/id=1202664505410/Is-Qualified-Immunity-for-TDCJ-Officials-Vulnerable?mcode=1202616608548&curindex=4&slreturn=20140626091547
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Offline DreamFae

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They will do anything nit to admit they are wrong.

Offline sunrayswench

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More news on this from the Grits for Breakfast blog.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has announced it will hold a hearing in Washington, D.C. on October 27, 2014 regarding Texas’ violation of prison inmates’ human rights by exposing them to dangerously hot temperatures. The IACHR is an independent organ of the Organization of American States, whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the Western hemisphere.

More here: http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/do-sweltering-texas-prisons-violate.html#more
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Offline sunrayswench

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5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judges rule on "cruel and unusual punishment" of hot prisons.

"Texas may not be required to air condition its prisons, but there's a good chance they'll need additional heat mitigation measures judging by a federal court ruling this week...."

More from the Grits For Breakfast blog on the recent ruling : http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/5th-circuit-hot-prisons-may-be-cruel.html
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Offline sunrayswench

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Robertson and Middleton units have been experiencing low water pressure over the past week or so, and the Administration has been limiting water use by inmates in those two facilities in an attempt to keep the water pressure high enough for the pumping equipment to function. This may mean TDCJ fails to meet the minimum recommendations for water for inmates during high temperature periods as ruled by the 5th Circuit Judges earlier last week.

More details here: http://www.ktxs.com/news/water-issues-at-local-prisons-have-relatives-concerned/34097432
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