Texas: The Issue Is – Air conditioning in Texas prisons during record high temps

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State prisons with no air conditioning: it’s a familiar issue that heats up every summer. But this year, with the current heat wave, the debate has gotten even hotter.

Tuesday, prison reform advocates held an emotional news conference at the State Capitol with several state lawmakers. State Rep. Carl Sherman (D – Lancaster) was among those taking part.

FOX 7 Austin’s Rudy Koski spoke with him about why he believes an emergency response is needed now.

RELATED: Texas inmates without air conditioning during record high temps, advocates say

Carl Sherman: You should care about humanity. Really what this comes down to is if you believe in public safety, then you should care, because those that are working in these conditions are suffering as well.

Rudy Koski: How much could this cost putting A/C in all the units?

Carl Sherman: Well, let me just say this. We actually appropriated over $500 million for us to have A/C. And I can tell you what it has cost us in the past. When you look at the cost that we’ve spent on trying to address lawsuits. It’s been millions of dollars, and it’s been less to actually install A/C.

Rudy Koski: What do you say to those who believe that this is just being soft on crime?

Carl Sherman: I understand. And I get it. They believe that. But when temperatures are rising above 120 degrees inside cells. That’s inhumane. That’s indecent.

Rudy Koski: The state is putting some cooling spots into some of these locations. Why isn’t that enough?

Carl Sherman: Well, when you are actually living in a four-story metal building under those conditions, and you’re taken out for respite when they can, because we’re understaffed, we normally have about 20,000 correctional officers, and now we’re down to, I think approximately the last number I saw, 17,000 correctional officers. They cannot address every citizen who has an issue regarding the heat. And so, unfortunately, those respite areas are not sufficient.

Carl Sherman: We know that our things shouldn’t be more valued than those that are made in His image. Whether you’ve done something wrong, or whether you just didn’t have a good legal team. Everyone deserves to be treated like a human.


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Rudy Koski: You say that this is an emergency. Are you asking the governor to call a special session for this issue?

Carl Sherman: Look, the governor has a multiplicity of issues and challenges, along with 30 million constituents who certainly have their priorities. And, you know, I’ve never been a governor. And so I don’t know what it must be like to be in his seat. There are a lot of important issues out there, but this is one where people are dying, where our employees are getting sick and needing to be rushed to the hospital. So this to me, speaks to our humanity in response.

Carl Sherman: And if there are conditions that we have control of that we can do something about. That we who say to the counties, you must have A/C, we say to the cities, you must have A/C. Then we ought to do it for ourselves. So, yes, I think that there could be hypocrisy there if we’re not doing it. And that’s on all of us. 150 representatives, 31 senators, as well as the governor as well. All of us have responsibility in this. So I don’t put this just on the governor.


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