Jails and prisons aren’t comfortable places to stay, and they aren’t meant to be. Most states take a hands-off approach to regulating the conditions of jails and prisons, which can sometimes be extremely uncomfortable and even dangerous to inmates. Texas is a state known for its summer heat waves which usually exceed 100 degrees, but the state government is opposed to mandating air conditioning in its correctional facilities. 

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The Fight for Air Conditioning in Prisons

Air conditioning in Texas prisons has been an issue for decades, but government officials are still opposed to the idea for economic reasons. Although all 104 prisons and jails in Texas are equipped with heating for the winter, 75 of these facilities have no air conditioning to combat the scorching heat of summertime. During the summer months, inmate housing can easily exceed 100 degrees, which is often unbearable and dangerous for prisoners.

The Cost of Cooling Prisons

The Texas government opposes air conditioning in prisons for financial reasons, so how much would it actually cost to install and maintain AC systems in these facilities? The Texas Department of Criminal Justice recently stated that it would cost $1 billion, but this number has raised the eyebrows of a few lawmakers.

In one lawsuit that was settled last year, inmates at a Texas prison demanded air conditioning in their housing and shared horror stories of the ways they coped with the summer heat, including one inmate’s attempt to stay cool at night by sleeping in a puddle of water on the floor. The TDCJ estimated that it would cost $20 million to cool this prison, but the final cost ended up only being $4 million. 

Given the TDCJ’s history of vastly overestimating air conditioning costs for prisons, many are skeptical of this new $1 billion estimate, and it’s easy to see why. 

Why Prisoners Need Air Conditioning

Every Texan knows how miserable the summer heat can be, even in air conditioned homes or offices. It’s common for the hottest days to exceed 100 degrees, and indoor temperatures can climb even higher without AC. Since 1998, at least two dozen prisoners have died as a result of high temperatures in their units, but the state still hasn’t taken any steps to keep inmates safe. In a state like Texas, air conditioning is a vital part of staying healthy. Heat can be deadly, and it’s time for the Texas government to take action. 

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