“Deadly Heat” in U.S. Prisons Is Killing Inmates and Spawning Lawsuits
by Alice Speri
Posted September 23, 2017
In the summer months, 84 inmates at the Price Daniel Unit, a medium-security prison four hours west of Dallas, share a 10-gallon cooler of water that’s kept locked in a common area. An inmate there can expect to receive one 8 oz. cup every four hours, according to Benny Hernandez, a man serving a 10-year sentence at the prison. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults drink about twice that amount under normal conditions and even more in hot climates. According to Hernandez, in the summer the temperature in his prison’s housing areas can reach an astonishing 140 degrees.
Earlier this summer, a federal judge certified a class action after inmates at another Texas prison — the Wallace Pack Unit, which houses sick, disabled, and elderly prisoners serving time for nonviolent crimes — sued TDCJ officials in an effort to keep the temperature below 88 degrees and prevent heat-stroke deaths. Plaintiffs in that case, originally filed in 2014, described sleeping on the floor to get some relief from the heat, metal walls trapping heat “like a parked car,” and metal tables that “get so heated that prisoners have to lay towels on them to rest their elbows on.” More…
A society can be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.