Lawmakers in Texas on Tuesday defended the lack of air-conditioning in state prisons after a report linked 19 inmate deaths to extreme heat.
A study released by the University of Texas Law School’s Human Rights Clinic warned that the state was violating the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and the human rights of inmates by refusing to put air-conditioning in prisons.
Data collected from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) showed the temperatures inside facilities like Hutchins State Jail could reach as high as 105 degrees in summer months.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local President Lance Lowry noted that TDCJ had put more effort into control the climate of pig barns — which have misting fans — than preventing the death of inmates from heat stroke.
“Our state places a greater emphasis on protecting its bacon than protecting the inmates and the officers in the state of Texas, and that’s sad,” Lowry told KVUE. “I have never worked in an environment where I’ve seen my co-workers fallout from everything from heart attack to strokes, and these conditions greatly affect that… We pride ourselves on being tough. Unfortunately this is being tough in the wrong area.”
Texas lawmakers from both parties defended the lack of air-conditioning on Tuesday, and suggested that there was little support for changing the status quo.
“We need to have a grown-up discussion of what’s practical and reasonable and what’s politically acceptable,” said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire (D) explained. “But I can tell you, the people of Texas don’t want air-conditioned prisons, and there’s a lot of other things on my list above the heat.”
“It’s hot in Texas, and a lot of Texans who are not in prison don’t have air conditioning,” he insisted.
Watch the video below from KVUE, broadcast April 23, 2014.
[The prisoner worries about a criminal conduct being behind in jail (Shutterstock.com)]