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Excess Heat in Texas Prisons: John Oliver Raises an Alarm

Texas is known for being tough on crimes and criminals, for meting out harsh penalties, and for not coddling prisoners within its criminal justice system. The Guardian recently highlighted a section reported by John Oliver on his show, Last Week Tonight, that decries the appalling heat in prisons in many of the hottest states across the nation – citing Texas specifically. If you are facing a criminal charge in Texas, you need an experienced Lampasas criminal defense attorney on your side.

Many Prisons Lack Air Conditioning

Oliver explains that over half the prisons in some of the hottest states in America lack air conditioning. In Texas, however, more than 75 percent of its incarceration facilities lack air conditioning. To make matters more difficult, many prisoners have chronic health conditions that can be exacerbated by excess heat and can lead to heatstroke or even death. The hot months in these prison systems are associated with increased suicide watches and instances in which prisoners engage in self-harm.

The Cost Conundrum

Many prisons speak to the cost of air conditioning in defense of not having it, but Oliver again turned to Texas and reported that the State of Texas once spent $7 million to fight a lawsuit that would have brought air conditioning to one prison at the cost of $4 million. Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and Michigan were also cited for their callous attitude toward prisoners and excess heat.

In the News

According to The Dallas Morning News, the temperature in Texas routinely soars above 100 degrees in the summer months, but there is no state law requiring that prisons be air conditioned. The desperate situation recently sent the state to court, and while the state agreed to cool some inmate housing, more than 100,000 inmates are left out and must carry on with the activities of daily living in intensely hot conditions.

Lawsuits Addressing the Issue

Inmates routinely sue the State of Texas over the appallingly hot prison conditions. Consider the following points made in The Dallas Morning News piece:

  • Some inmates are forced to spend 23 hours a day in dangerously hot cells.

  • Many sleep on wet bedsheets placed on the floor to experience a bit of reprieve.

  • The heat causes dozens of inmates and guards to become ill every year (and some have died as a result).

  • The State of Texas recently faced 17 heat-based lawsuits.

In 2020, prisoners had to battle both the immense heat and the raging pandemic

Recent House Bill

Had recent House Bill 1971 passed, it would have required Texas to equip its prisons with climate control systems. The bill, however, adjourned sine die, which means that it failed to even make it out of committee.

Do Not Wait to Consult with an Experienced Lampasas Criminal Defense Attorney

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Lampasas, Texas, is a formidable criminal defense attorney who is on your side and here to help. To learn more, please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.

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