‘People get sick’ | Price of water goes up in Texas prisons

The price of bottled water in Texas prisons has gone up by 50%.

AUSTIN, Texas — There is a call for action to address access to clean drinking water and the lack of air conditioning in Texas prisons, with elected officials saying temperatures are rising above 130 degrees in some prisons. 

Chivas Watson has a long history in the criminal justice system, doing time over 17 years, and vividly remembers being stuck inside a cell. 

“You just wake up in the sweat, and so your resting place is now wet. And so sweat carries, and sweat travels, sweat manipulates and people get sick,” Watson said. 

Now, the price to stay cool is going up for prisoners and their families. In an email to KVUE, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) confirmed its vendor, Royal Pacific Tea Company, emailed and requested a price increase. 

The department claims it did not initially accept the request and asked for a lower price, with hopes to find an alternate vendor. After negotiations with the vendor, TDCJ accepted the cost for the remainder of the fiscal year. 

The current cost of bottled water is now $7.20 a case. Before, it was $4.80 a case. An individual bottle now costs $0.30 as opposed to $0.20. During triple-digital heat, Dr. Amite Dominick with Texas Prisons Community Advocates points out the increase could not come at a worse time. 

“Oftentimes the primary breadwinner is the person who is incarcerated, so that’s an additional financial strain, and then they are forced to purchase things like water,” Dominick said. 

TDCJ points out inmates still have access to non-bottled water at their units for free, but Dominick said many Texas prisons are old with outdated pipes. 

“The tap water is filthy. It’s simply filthy,” Watson said. 

“What does that say about us as a society if we are literally baking people alive and we’re premeditatively doing this? And we’re refusing to change?” Dominick said.

Here is the full copy of the email from TDCJ to KVUE:

“TDCJ orders bottled water from a Statewide Procurement Division (SPD) awarded contract. The contract is currently awarded to The Royal Pacific Tea Company Inc. The vendor emailed SPD requesting a price increase.

“SPD notified TDCJ of the request and asked us to accept the request. TDCJ did not initially accept the request and asked SPD to negotiate for a lower price. While SPD negotiated, TDCJ began trying to find other supplies and could not find a vendor to meet the needs of the agency. SPD then negotiated a price with the vendor and, to meet the needs of the agency, TDCJ accepted the cost for the remainder of fiscal year 2023.

“TDCJ has updated our specifications of solicitation for the upcoming fiscal year in hopes to lower costs.

“Due to the increase, TDCJ held the price at a lower cost for a few months to delay the impact felt by the inmates for as long as we could.

“The current cost of water is now $7.20, it was $4.80. Individually, for each bottle, it is now $.30 a bottle as opposed to $.20.

“It is also noteworthy that all inmates have access to nonbottled water at the units for free.

“Amanda Hernandez, Texas Department of Criminal Justice”

Isabella Basco on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram 

KVUE on social media:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube  

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