Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported that two inmates and two prison guards were treated for heat-related illnesses this week during the Texas heat wave.
As temperatures rose above 100 degrees in most of Texas on Saturday, an inmate at the Lane Murray prison in Gatesville became ill while sitting in the coolest section of the prison. The next day, a correctional officer fell ill at the Estelle Unit in Huntsville.
Tuesday, one inmate at the Jester III unit in Richmond was treated for dehydration while a correctional officer at the Lane Murray unit received treatment for a heat-related illness.
Many of the 104 Texas prisons and jails do not have air conditioning even in the areas where inmates sleep.
Temperatures reached 110 degrees in Dallas. That means the inside temperature at some of these units is over 150 degrees.
Jeremy Desel, a spokesperson for TDCJ, stated that TDCJ and prison officials are taking every precaution for the health and well-being of the offenders and staff. He states that inmates are provided with extra water, more showers, and air-conditioned respite areas.
Friday, TDCJ’s “Incident Command System” was initiated which means the prison units have instituted “heat protocols”. However, many offenders and their families state these rules are not being followed.
Offenders are complaining they are not receiving their ‘extra glass of water’ until 7:30 at night and the inside temperatures are still over 100 degrees.
Only 29 of the 104 state-run jails and prisons have air conditioning in their cellblocks or dorms. The decision to install air conditioning is up to the law makers. After a lawsuit was filed the state of Texas was mandated to install air conditioning only in the Wall Pack Unit where older or frail inmates are housed. No agreement has been met on the other TDCJ prisons.
Senator John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, stated the prisons were “not designed for comfort.” He states that installing a cooling system at each prison will be too expensive.
The summer Texas heat is not something inmates should take lightly. The majority of Texas prisons do not have air-conditioning, their beds and chairs are made of metal making it difficult to sit or lean on because it is too hot.
Write or visit your incarcerated friends or loved ones and inform them of the dangers of heat exhaustion. On days where the outside temperature is 100 degrees, the inside temperature can reach 150 degrees with the heat index.
Look for these signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke:
- Hot, flushed, dry skin
- Rapid heart rate
- Decreased sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle cramps
- Increase body temperatures
- Involuntary shivers
- Difficulty talking
- Forgetfulness or confusion
- Loss of consciousness
Offenders should take appropriate measures to stay cool and hydrated. TDCJ advises each inmate to drink at least two gallons of water on hot days.
Texas state law requires all county jails to be air-conditioned. Many inmates moved from county jail to a TDCJ facility have trouble adjusting to a prison without air conditioning.
The excess heat drains energy from the body. The only thing to look forward to other than “making store” is the possibility of making parole and getting out sooner.
The parole rates are higher than in recent years so why not take advantage of it and get the people inside started working on their parole packet?
Our parole book, How to Prepare a Texas Parole Packet, is available as a download and as a download with a printed copy that we can mail into the prison. Since we are a publishing company we are allowed to mail the books directly to the prisoners.