Some say nothing bipartisan can pass in Texas. A Democratic and Republican coalition of representatives from the Dallas Fort Worth area is proving them wrong. This bipartisan group is fighting for prison reform. Their bill requiring Texas prisons to install air conditioning in all facilities is making its way through congress.
HB 357 is a bill "relating to air conditioning requirements at facilities operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice." The legislation seeks to improve the climate control systems lacking in many Texas Correction buildings.
The Dallas Morning News (DMN) reported one out of five lockup facilities has no air conditioning or climate control systems for inmates. Forty-nine prisons only have partial air conditioning.
The DMN published documents showing more than twenty inmates died from the heat inside Texas prisons between 1998 and 2012.
Democrats and Republicans from the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex are working together to make substantial prison reform changes during the legislative session. Last week, this bill passed the House by a vote of 123-18. Now, the bill moves to the Texas Senate before heading to Governor Abbot's desk to sign it into law.
This bill provides the State prison system with seven years to bring climate control systems to all locations. The project has a cost cap of $300 million. The bill is contingent on State or Federal funds approval to assist with cooling costs.
The bill would provide essential climate control and air conditioning to incarcerated people throughout the Texas Penal system. The requirements are relatively basic stating:
AIR CONDITIONING REQUIREMENTS AT DEPARTMENT
FACILITIES. The department shall ensure that each cellblock,
dormitory, and common area in a facility operated by the department
is equipped with an air conditioning unit that is operating to
maintain the air temperature at not less than 65 degrees Fahrenheit
or more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Let's meet the Dallas Fort Worth Representatives, who are working together to provide humane treatment to incarcerated Texans.
Representative Carl O. Sherman District 109
Carl Sherman is the democratic representative for district 109. He was elected in 2010 as the first African-American Mayor of DeSoto, Texas. He served two terms and led efforts to make Desoto one of the first cities in Texas to require police to wear body cameras. District 109 includes Cedar Hill, Dallas, DeSoto, Ferris, Glenn Heights, Hutchins, Lancaster, Ovilla, Seagoville, Wilmer, and other surrounding areas of southern Dallas County.
Representative Jeff Leach District 67
Jeff Leach is the republican representative for District 67. Representative Leach comes from Plano and is serving his fifth term in the Texas house. He is Chairman of the House committee with oversight over the Texas justice system. He also serves on the House Committee on Juvenile Justice and Family Issues. He is also the Chairman of the House committee with oversight over the Texas justice system. House District 67 consists of portions of Plano, Allen, Richardson, and Dallas in Collin County.
Representative Lynne Stuckey
Dr. Lynn Stucky is a veterinarian who now serves as the Republican representative for District 64. Dr. Stucky was raised on a Kansas farm before making Denton, Texas, his home. He spent 15 years on the Sanger ISD Board of Trustees and served on the Sanger Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. He was elected to Texas House District 64 in 2016. The district includes Denton, Krum, Corinth, Shady Shores, Hickory Creek, and Lake Dallas.
Speaker Pro Tem Joe Moody
Attorney Joe Moody is the Democratic representing District 78, which covers northern El Paso County. Elected at age 27, Moody was the youngest state representative in Texas. He is the Speaker Pro tem and serves as the Vice-Chair of the Calendars Committee. He focuses attention on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence as well as redistricting issues. Representative Moody works on veterans issues, mental health, education, and equality, but criminal justice reform is his passion.
Representative Michelle Beckley
Michelle Beckley is the Democratic representative for House District 65 where she serves on the Agriculture and Livestock and the Business and Industry Committees. District 65 covers the major parts of Carrollton and Lewisville. Representative Beckley is a small business owner running the Kookaburra Bird Shop. In between running her company and serving Texans, Beckley is an active bicyclist who has completed two Ironman Triathlons.
Where does the bill stand now?
On Thursday, March 13, the House voted in a truly bipartisan fashion. 123 Representatives voted in favor of the legislation. Only eight were opposed. The bill now heads to the Senate.
Prison reform is a bipartisan issue. Both parties recognize the need to treat the incarcerated with dignity in a safe and healthy environment. Everyone deserves a second chance.
Given the partisan divide throughout our country, let's celebrate this group of Texas Democrats and Republicans coming together to create a humane environment for incarcerated Texans.
Representative Carl Sherman shows us the importance of House Bill 357 in this April 2021 video from Texas Prisons Air Conditioning Advocates.