Society

Texas Lawmaker Ignores Inmates' Deaths From Extreme Heat in Prisons (Video)

| by Michael Allen

A newly-released study by the University of Texas School of Law Human Rights Clinic (TDCJ) found that hot temperatures in non air-conditioned Texas prisons have taken the lives of 14 inmates since 2007.

The study claims these brutally high temperatures in the prisons are "cruel and unusual punishment."

"We say that this is inhuman, degrading treatment, but it's a question of severity," Ariel Dulitzky, of the TDCJ, told KVUE (video below).

"So we feel that this is close to torture, but we don't call this torture," added Dulitzky.

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According to the TDCJ study, the Hutchins State Jail in Dallas, Texas, was 120 degrees in the morning on July 19, 2011 and reached 150 degrees that same afternoon.

"Heat stroke, unlike almost any other illness that people die from in prison, is completely preventable," said attorney Jeff Edwards, who represents the families of eight prisoners who have died because of the heat.

"All you need to do is lower the temperature, and they've chosen not to do that," added Edwards.

Ironically, the state of Texas has built climate-controlled barns that include misting fans for pigs.

"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," said Lance Lowry, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3807, which represents corrections officers who work in the sweltering prisons.

"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," added Lowry. "We pride ourselves on being tough. Unfortunately this is being tough in the wrong area."

However, State Senator John Whitmire (D) expressed little concern for the prisoners or the state employees in the prisons.

"We need to have a grown-up discussion of what's practical and reasonable and what's politically acceptable," Whitmire told the Houston Chronicle. "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."

Dr. Lannette Linthicum, who serves as the medical director for the Texas prison system, told the Houston Chronicle that most of the 25,000 Texas inmates, who have mental health problems, are taking heat-sensitive drugs, which leaves the state wide open for even more lawsuits.

Sources: Houston Chronicle and KVUE