Failure to Act: Texas Prison System's Inhumane Heat Conditions Persist with Air Conditioning Bill Rejection

Ash Jurberg

Despite "inhumane" conditions in Texas prisons, a bill to fund air conditioning has failed in the Senate.

According to data published earlier this year, "indoor temperature in at least 15 state-run jails and prisons exceeded 100 degrees last summer."

This follows a report from the Texas A&M University Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center last year that found that temperatures inside Texas prisons regularly reached 110 degrees and 149 in at least one unit.

This data supports that the conditions are inhumane. We have to bring humanity back into politics. There are just some things that should not be so.” Rep. Carl Sherman

These harsh conditions are why Texas lawmakers debated whether to install air conditioning at its more than 100 prisons across the state. Texas is one of 13 states that does not have universal air-conditioning in its state prisons.

The House had been pushing to include $545 million to accommodate two phases of a four-phase plan to install air conditioning in all Texas prisons by 2031. However, the plan was quashed by the Senate.

"It's incredibly disappointing. The Senate is very clearly stating ... that they endorse torturing incarcerated Texas citizens. We're all just kind of at a loss, like what else are we supposed to do about these situations?" Amite Dominick, president of Texas Prisons Community Advocates

The current conditions

The "inhumane" conditions faced by prisoners in Texas were highlighted during the heat of the Texas summer last year by reporter Keri Blakinger when she posted on Twitter. She posted that the conditions last summer were "worse than other years... not necessarily because of the heat but because of the heat plus the lack of staff available to do anything to mitigate it."

Blakinger's Twitter post attracted much media attention and supportive comments from family members of inmates serving time in Texas prisons.

"Spoke with a long time guard last week who said she and others are very concerned. Ice makers can't keep up with need. Not enough staff to properly transport in so delays in delivery. Yesterday Lane Murray Unit has forbid showers and using water with threats of being written up." @CuriousDM

In 2022, two dozen staff and 11 inmates fell ill from the extreme heat conditions in the prison system.

There are currently 20 lawsuits against Texas related to extreme heat in prisons. While fighting these lawsuits is projected to cost $7 million, installing air conditioning would cost $4 million.

It’s like a rotisserie. But [the data] doesn’t, in my opinion, give a real accurate reading of what humans, what they’re subject to.” Rep. Carl Sherman

It also affects prison recruitment, with harsh working conditions blamed for a 30% fall in the workforce.

Your thoughts

Do you believe the conditions for prisoners in Texas should be better? Are you disappointed the proposal to cover air conditioning failed in the Senate? What should be done to improve conditions?

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below and share this article with others so more people can join the discussion.

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San Antonio, TX

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