New report describes 'living hell' in Texas prisons without air conditioning

Prison bars
Posted at 11:36 AM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 18:27:56-04

WACO, Texas — Texas A&M University's Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center released a report this month that describes Texas prisons as a "living hell".

The report states Texas is one of only 13 states across the United States in which prisons are not air-conditioned statewide. It claims only 30% of Texas prisons are fully air-conditioned and units "been shown to regularly reach 110 degrees and in at least one unit have topped 149 degrees."

According to the 309 surveys conducted for this study, "incarcerated people frequently described having experienced symptoms of heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke".

Angel Sires' fiancé has been incarcerated in the Gatesville Prison's Alfred Hughes Unit. She told 25 News he has experienced not only hot units but also has been denied cold water and is only allowed to shower once a month.

"He gets bumps on his skin and stuff," she said. "It's very sad because it was more like a mental thing and it's starting to become very physical."

According to the CDC, small blisters or bumps on the skin can be symptoms of heat rash. They also report heat stroke, the most severe of heat illnesses, can occur at temperatures around 103 Fahrenheit. That temperature is significantly lower than what TAMU reports is often seen in prisons.

"I'm scared he's going to die," Sires said. "I'm constantly worried about him. Constantly. I'm always trying to not think about the bad things."

The city of Gatesville had a water main break this week, but according to Sires, her fiancé says it's always been that way.

"They've already agreed to pay their wrongs by taking their time of their life away, their liberty, their freedom," she said. "I think of it as two wrongs don't make a right."

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice denied 25 News request for an interview, but instead released the following statement:

"TDCJ takes numerous precautions to lessen the effects of hot temperatures for those incarcerated within our facilities. These efforts work. In 2022, there have been seven inmates who required medical care beyond first aid for heat-related injuries and none were fatal. During this same time period, our average inmate population was 118,299 and more than 3,700 inmates entered our system each month and 3,500 inmates were released each month.

"Much like those Texans who do not have access to air conditioning in their homes, the department uses an array of measures to keep inmates safe. Everyone has access to ice and water. Fans are strategically placed in facilities to move the air. Inmates have access to a fan and they can access air-conditioned respite areas when needed.

"The agency recognizes that some inmates are potentially at a heightened risk of heat-related illnesses because of their age, health conditions, or medications. These individuals are identified through an automated heat sensitivity score that uses information from the inmate’s electronic health record. Individuals who have a heat sensitivity score receive priority placement in a housing area that is air-conditioned."