Heatwave Threatens US Inmates’ Physical and Mental Health

Texas’ prisons were reaching a crisis point as a climate-crisis-fuelled heatwave pummeled the southern United States, posing a threat to prisoners’ physical and mental health.

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“Up to 100,000 incarcerated people are baking in concrete and metal cells that act as heat traps” in prisons without cooling systems across the state. Inside temperatures rose regularly above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) and even reached 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius), said The Guardian.

To protect animals from extreme heat and provide for their “health and well-being,” animal shelters in Texas were obliged to ensure that their ambient temperature does not rise above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4 degrees Celsius) for more than two hours.

“If only humans were so lucky,” the British newspaper wrote, adding that individuals were pushed to the brink of mental or physical breakdown, or even death.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) said that there had not been a heat death since 2012 and only eight heat-related nonfatal incidents involving medical care were recorded this year.

However, Texas Prisons Community Advocates (TPCA) suspected that the daily temperature readings inside cells taken by the TDCJ were set up to minimize the extent of the crisis and that the real heat levels might be much higher.

“They are not being honest with this data. People are dying because of the heat, and still, the agency is refusing to acknowledge that it is even a factor,” TPCA President Amite Dominick said.

Texas is one of “at least 13 states without universal prison air conditioning” and about 70 percent of the units in the state have only partial or no cooling systems.

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