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No air conditioning coming to Texas prisons, bill fails in Senate

Posted at 5:18 PM, Jun 05, 2023

TEXAS — Texas summers can be brutal when it comes to the high temperatures and the hot sun.

The Lone Star State is known for its triple digit temperatures and extreme humidity or dryness, depending on the part of the state.

Imagine those extreme weather conditions while also being incarcerated in a concrete and steel building — with no air conditioning.

Carrie Shipp's son spent five years in prison, starting his sentence when he was 17-years-old. She does not sugar-coat those conditions.

“I don't think that we're rehabilitating people by burning them alive,” Shipp said.

During the summer months, she says temperatures inside Texas prisons can get up to 130℉.

"They have these little bitty fans," Shipp said.

"Without air conditioning, it doesn't do anything. It's just hot air blowing in your face."

This is not just uncomfortable — it can be deadly.

In 2011, at least 10 prisoners died of heat stroke, according to court records, and not much has changed in 12 years.

"Those men and women have done wrong, and folks sometimes aren't that sympathetic," said Rep. Kyle Kacal (TX-12).

Kacal represents Texas' District 12, and serves as the Vice Chair on the Corrections Committee. The committee discussed and approved two bills that would provide funding to install air conditioning units in state prisons.

"As a House Member who represents Walker, Grimes and Madison County, that has a very big footprint with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, I am all in support and trying to help them do their job,” Kacal said.

However, when the House suggested allotting $545 million for air conditioning in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice budget, the Senate offered nothing.

This is alongside the department facing severe employee shortages, partly due to the conditions inside.

"Those conditions are hard to work in, let alone recruit people to come work in," Kacal said.

"The prison system at this time is roughly down 30 percent of typical employment.“

State prisons are the only facilities without a legal requirement for temperature control. County jails in Texas are required to stay between 65 and 85℉.

Meanwhile, only about a quarter of state prisons even have air conditioning systems installed.