Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More litigation over summer heat in Texas prisons: Wrongful death suit filed

The New York Times and the Texas Tribune both published stories yesterday about litigation over extreme heat in Texas prisons,  a subject Grits tackled earlier this month after oral arguments at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Another lawsuit over the issue - this one a wrongful death suit - was filed last week. Reported the Times:
four inmates — Larry Gene McCollum, 58; Alexander Togonidze, 44; Michael David Martone, 57; and Kenneth Wayne James, 52 — died last summer from heat stroke or hyperthermia, according to autopsy reports and the authorities. Advocates for inmate rights believe that at least five others died from heat-related causes last summer.

On Tuesday, the Texas Civil Rights Project and an Austin lawyer filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Mr. McCollum’s wife, son and daughter. They accused prison officials of causing his death by keeping him in the sweltering Hutchins State Jail outside Dallas, where he had a seizure around 2 a.m. on July 22 and fell from his bunk bed. 

When Mr. McCollum, who weighed 345 pounds and had hypertension, arrived at a Dallas hospital, his body temperature was 109.4 degrees. He died six days later.
The Times offered a bit more detail on other heat-related deaths from last summer:
Nearly two weeks after Mr. McCollum died, Mr. Togonidze and Mr. Martone died of hyperthermia on the same August day in different prisons. Five days later, Mr. James was found unresponsive at 3 a.m. at a prison near the East Texas town of Palestine. His body temperature was 108 degrees, and the cause of death was “most likely environmental hyperthermia-related classic heat stroke,” according to the autopsy report. Like Mr. McCollum, Mr. James had hypertension.
Also mentioned was the disparity in state rules for county jails and practices in state-run lockups: "A Texas law requires county jails to maintain temperature levels between 65 and 85 degrees, but the law does not apply to state prisons. The American Correctional Association recommends that temperature and humidity be mechanically raised or lowered to acceptable levels." Of course, the difference between state prisons and county jails is that most jail inmates are being held pretrial and haven't yet been convicted of anything. Still, it's ironic that the state regulates prisoner conditions at the counties that it's unwilling to address in its own facilities.

At oral arguments earlier this month, 5th Circuit Judge Carolyn Dineen King asked "do we have to wait till you kill someone in order for that person to have a cause of action?" As Grits reported, "The state's attorney answered 'no,' but could not articulate at what point prior to death a prisoner could sue over excessive heat." Now that litigation has expanded to include a heat-related wrongful death, that debate may eventually become moot, though the three-judge panel at the 5th Circuit didn't seem too impressed with it, anyway.

The Times article closed with what strikes me as an odd assessment from state Sen. John Whitmire:
State Senator John Whitmire, a Democrat from Houston and chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said he was concerned about the inmate deaths but wanted to examine the circumstances of each. He said he was not sympathetic to complaints about a lack of air-conditioning, partly out of concern about the costs, but also out of principle. 

“Texans are not motivated to air-condition inmates,” he said. “These people are sex offenders, rapists, murderers. And we’re going to pay for their air-conditioning when I can’t go down the street and provide air-conditioning to hard-working, taxpaying citizens?”
That statement seems strangely disconnected on several fronts. First, about half of inmates in Texas prisons are nonviolent offenders, so the schtick about "sex offenders, rapists [and] murderers," makes for a good sound bite but isn't universally applicable. The fellow whose wrongful death suit was filed last week, for example, was convicted of forgery. Further, as of 2009, 89% of owner-occupied homes nationally and 98% in the South  had air conditioning*, so most "hard-working, taxpaying citizens" already have AC. Also, Texas does provide assistance with electric bills when the summer heat spikes, though it does so less frequently after the Legislature last year raided the special fund collected for that purpose. And of course, in the free world excursions to the library, public swimming pools, the supermarket, movie theaters or other air conditioned venues can provide respite from hot conditions. Somebody stuck in a cell with no windows, "sitting in an oven," as Judge King put it, has no such option.

I do agree with Sen. Whitmire, though, that a majority of Texas voters likely would not choose to pay to cool prison units if you asked them, but so what? These are federal lawsuits alleging a violation of constitutional rights. I'd never expect the Legislature to address the problem of their own accord, but if the courts decide the state must provide relief, poll numbers won't matter much. 

* Source: American Housing Survey (pdf), 2009, p. 17. Nationally 82% of renters had AC, but regional data is unavailable. Rentals made up 31.6% of occupied housing units in 2009.

81 comments:

A friend said...

Again, we need to hold a special session of the Texas Legislature and provide them free housing in a prison unit without air conditioning some August. We would probably get some new reps and sens to replace those not surviving the experience and some serious prison reform.

Kambri Crews said...

Sen. Whitmire's remark stood out to me, too. McCollum was sentenced to less than a year in prison. His death could cost the state millions.

Anonymous said...

Waa, waa, waa...How typical it is of you liberals to run tattle to the federal courts every time one of them mean ol' states does something you disagree with. So if you can't get the legislature to advance your "do good," tax and spend agenda, you beg some federal judge to do it for you.

Anonymous said...

One fact that isn't getting mentioned is that some medications - particularly anti-psychotic and Parkinson's Drugs - render an individual more susceptible to heatstroke. It would be good to know that TDCJ at least winnows out inmates taking those drugs for cooler accommodation, but somehow I suspect they don't ... thereby creating further liability potential.

Anonymous said...

8:41, I'm curioius. Does the same criticism apply to conservatives going to the courts to overturn what Congress did on health care?

It's telling that you complain of "tattling" ... that usually implies somebody broke a rule.

Hook Em Horns said...

Whitmire is a hack who walks a thin line between reason and stupidity. He wisely threw in the "tough on crime" crap that people swallow hook, line and sinker to cover his ass.

Lee said...

Forgery? Wow, that sounds real dangerous. We need to squander more taxpayers money on this guy.
(Sarcasm)

Lee said...

If pepole in prison get free better healthcare than the public, free rent, free electricity and free food where is the incentive to be law-abiding?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Lee, you make that or similar statements (@11:03) a lot on this blog, I notice, and seem to be quite proud of yourself for the supposed insight. But if I offered you "free rent" in a room you couldn't leave where it gets up to 126 degrees in the afternoon; "free electricity" but no access to electronic devices, a refrigerator, AC, etc.; "free food" that at one point included VitaPro; and "free healthcare" where you visit the doctor in chains, would you say "yes"?

If so, it'd be easy enough for you to do something to get into prison if it all sounds so great. Of course, if what you said were an accurate, honest assessment instead of politicized BS, most prisoners wouldn't want parole.

8:41, "run to tattle"? Are you nine years old? If you want to spend less on prisons, incarcerate fewer people. If Texas wants to incarcerate one in 25 adults, their punishment cannot be cruel and unusual. As one of the judges on the 5th Circuit panel said, "There's not a person in this room who would go and sit in that prison for a day in that kind of heat." I bet you wouldn't last an afternoon.

Prison Doc said...

Lee, getting things free in prison is a damn poor substitute for freedom.

The fact that most Texans would not support air conditioning prisons is of no importance. Most Texans don't support any of the things "given" to prisoners except imprisonment.

The prison system always tries to put the monkey on the back of medical staff to give appropriate "heat restrictions". Unfortunately that is a a guessing game that won't be successful. Normal, healthy people can die of heat stroke too. If there is any real interest in avoiding heat-related injuries, building temperatures should be appropriately lowered and outside work with heat index over 95 degrees should not be allowed.

Otherwise there will continue to be an annual cluster of heat-related deaths.

Anonymous said...

Often in these debates those who on one side leap to the conclusion that the only appropriate response is something at the extreme without acknowledging the REAONSABLE measures that should be taken.

Few people expect the entire system to be air conditioned. THis is the same way those who oppose REASONABLE reforms in the system use when they leap to the arguments about the death penalty.

It would not have been necessary for the federal courts to take over the system before if the officials in charge and legislators had been willing to take REASONABLE steps to alleviate the problems. It was their stubborness and failure to take REASONABLE steps that necessitated court intervention. And......of course those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.

There are many, many REASONABLE steps that can be done to address the heat issue short of air conditioning all the prisons. There is simply no excuse for temps above 120 degrees as was reported in the first case. Proper venitaltion, fans, providing ice water, etc., are all REASONABLE steps. It is the stubborness and arrogance of those in charge that prevents the from acting REASONABLY and will likely necessitage court intervention. Some moron that posts here wants to blame liberals (btw I'm a semi conservative libertarian). The fact is, the ones to blame for court intervention will be the same ones who were to blame for court intervention before - the officials, legislators, and citizens who, when informed of a problem simply become stuboborn and refuse to act REASONABLY.

8:41, if you don't want the courts to intervene and order that the prisons be air conditioned you should be demanding that your legislators and the prison officials quit being stubborn morons and begin to act REASONABLY to prevent people from dying.

Btw, the person who mentioned the medication issue has a good point. I know someone who is in a prison but should probably be in a hospital and her medications make her susceptible to the heat. They say they have a policy to monitor these people but, like many other policies, they don't really do it. Every summer she has at least one or two episodes of heat exhaustion.

It's about time someone brought in the federal courts. 8:41, if you really don't want court intervention, you need to start telling your legislators to acknowledge and deal with the problem. Failing to do so will, once again, lead to court intervention.

Anonymous said...

Having been to prison, (for an immigration paper mistake on my part, I'm from Europe , and did not understand or pay attention to visa rules at the time, so no I'm not a rapist or murderer, I actually just finished my masters and have never committed another crime) I can honestly tell you I would never go back. I used to joke before and say if I was homeless I would just go to jail instead. Having been there I can honestly tell you I'd rather be penniless and starving than go back. Waking up knowing that you would be stuck inside a cement block for 23 hours a day not being able to see your friends or family or even the stars at night was bad enough, I'm not sympathetic to the fact that some may have this to look forward to, but 120 degrees is simply inhumane. So people who are saying "if you want a/c you should've thought about it before you committed the crime" are wrong. A lot of these people are not bad people, just made a mistake, prison is torture enough trust me.

Anonymous said...

Yes, prisons are not comfortable places to either do time or work there. I worked there for over 20 years. Some are cold in the winter as well. Having said that, there are several common sense ways to reduce the discomfort for both staff and inmates. Those tools are available. TDCJ must use their resources to do so fully. Federal courts aren't likely to rule that our prisons must be air-conditioned. In the event they do, the appellate courts or the Supreme Court would strike them down.

We go through this every year and the same problems arise. Being proactive reduces the injuries and lawsuits.

ckikerintulia said...

There are lots of ways short of central AC to make places a bit cooler. And it is inhumane to have people in 120 heat without ventilation. Fans is one partial relief remedy. We used to have hand held fans supplied by the local undertaker at country church. Not very good, but it helped!

Harry Homeless said...

For those still having a conscience as opposed to the sensibilites of a rapist (Hi 8:41!), TX Cure has had a prison fan fund for years to help alleviate the suffering. It is only for those unable to pay for one themselves. Bob Ray Sanders wrote an article on it.

The address is:

TX-CURE Fan Project
P.O. Box 372
Burleson, TX 76097

Anonymous said...

You would think putting A/C in the prisons would be a no brainer. By the time all these wrongful death lawsuits clear the courts it will have been cheaper to put A/C in every prison.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see how these lawsuits pan out and what affect they might have on old "Sheriff Joe" and his Arizona concentration camps....

I was a resident of the fucked up state of Texas for thirty years and while it is hard enough for the average Texan to pay his own A/C bill each summer, air conditioning in Texas is not a luxury, it is a NECESSITY! If this were Alaska, would it be okay to not provide any heat and let prisoners freeze to death? I don't think so...

Nurseypooh said...

Medications for hypertension make you more likely to suffer from heat related illness. I sure don't see an A/c in the future of tdcj but agree there are some other measures the could take to cool things down. Swamp coolers used in dryer climates don't use a lot of electricity. The heat has made my job a lot harder this summer, we get called to the field, buildings, chow hall etc. more often for inmates passing out etc. we try to educate them about hydration. We also have been watching several who have so many chronic health issues closley. Last month we recommended 5 to be reassigned due to medical issues and the upcoming summer heat all 5 have been approved and moved to other units, yes we were suprised it happened so fast but were glad because these paticular inmates may not have made it through the summer. The medical department isn't in the business of letting people die. We do the best we can with what policies we have.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6/27/2012 06:33:00 PM said...

"I was a resident of the fucked up state of Texas for thirty years and while it is hard enough for the average Texan to pay his own A/C bill each summer, air conditioning in Texas is not a luxury, it is a NECESSITY!"

No, it's a luxury. I attended school in Texas until 11th grade in cinder block buildings with nothing but fans in the rooms before I saw the first air-conditioned classroom. Air-conditioning has become more of a standard way of life these days, but it's definitely not a necessity. Like any other place, you learn how to live in the environment. I still spend a good deal of my time in the summer heat. I'm glad you found happiness somewhere else besides Texas, and I hope it's a cold day in hell before you ever come back.

Anonymous said...

No inmate in the state of Texas should have to live in an enviroment with no heat in the winter and with no cooling in the summer. But then the state of Texas is not even in the 17th century. I am ashamed of the way the inmates have to live in Texas, because Texas is such a backwards state. That is one of the reasons your Govenor Perry could not get to first base, trying to run for the President of the USA. Wake up Texas!!!!!!Tell your Parole Board to start letting some of those inmates go home !!!!!!

janlee said...

My son served six years in an un-ac environment. Thank God he was young. I feel for both inmates living in these conditions and Correctional Officers working in them... seems like the worker's comp cases would provide the "duh" moment for TDCJ...but then this is
just one of the problems with the system.

PAPA said...

What about the Non-Violent Offenders who will return to the streets? How about the many wrongfully accused who will return to the streets? Guess What,these are human beings,are the Jail Cells the ovens of WWII? Supposedly with Global Warming something needs to be done.By the time the wrongful death suits are settled all the units could be air conditioned with those dollars.After the incident with the death row inmate and Senator Whitmire....what do you expect?I am sorry that person choose to do what he did but don't take it out on all the non-violent offenders, the survivors of the long ago lost DRUG WAR, or the innocent aka wrongfully accused! The Offenders with heart conditions need AC so do the elderly.If Criminals do not merit having AC then the AC needs to be cut off at the Legislators Buildings and Capitol!!!!What say YOU?

DEWEY said...

Have the state ledge hold meetings in prison cells in July and August. Without fans. Air conditioning may be impractical, but more air circulation is needed in the prisons. I know. I spent five years in the Texas Department of Corrup....er Corrections.

Anonymous said...

Don't you know PETA would have a fit if animals were being housed in those conditions!

Anonymous said...

My son spent 2 summers in Gaza east. The fans were not working according to him and when I called the officers said they would look into it. They called me back and insisted they were working. Now it doesn't take too much intelligence to figure out if fans are "on" and after I called three times my son said to let it go- he didn't want any backlash since I needed to give his dorm # and name when I called. They were finally turned on June 21st - the first day of summer. Coincidence? What is the rationale to withhold a simple fan to help cool the huge dorms - 50 men in a room - with no ventilation? TDCJ delivers punishment and does not care about human rights.

Nurseypooh said...

They have heat in winter.

texasred said...

Nurseypooh 10:04
...and in the the summer too.

Anonymous said...

my Grandfather was a strong union leader, a democrat and responsible for John Whitmire elected to office way back when. He would be awful ashamed of the attitude and lack of humanity Whitmire shows today.No doubt about it.

Gatesville Gulag Watcher said...

As we speak it is around 112 to 124 degrees in the Crain Unit. Most of the dorms have no fans. They bring in cold water in the morning and within the hour it is hot. I wonder why they take them outside to swing aggies in this heat but will not send two inmates to the dining hall every hour to get a cooler of cold water. I was told it was in an old bucket. Do we not trust minimum custody inmates not to walk 50 feet from one building to another one? So much for teaching them responsibility. This is the rehabilitation that the Crain Unit offers. I have never talked to anyone who left that place that did not resent the people working there or their torture methods. This is cruel and unusual punishment. They could at least supply them with cool water. If you ever go down there to visitation you will see those are some of the laziest people (guards) on this planet. They actually sit around and laugh about this as they drink their bottle water in coolers in front of the inmates. When the women fall out with heat injuries they are written up and brutally punished by the guards. They windows on Lane Murray and Hobby are bolted shut and NO fresh air comes in the cell blocks at all.

Macky Anderson said...

That's the real suffering beyond bars. We must also have a consideration for those inmates, please don't forget to give them a second chance to live. Even though they've done worst things in past, that doesn't mean they will not do good in the future.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about why the Texas Jail Standards Commission is allowed to mandate that county jails operate within a certain level of inmate comfort. Is the State operating under two sets of standards. Do local county taxpayers protest because local jail inmates are not in 108 degree cells? If the local jails have to comply with a State Jail Standards agency that sets temperature standards that the county has to absorb as part of it's utility costs, why are state prisons not held to the same standard or vise versa? Should local jails shut of the a/c in the summer and save money as well as show criminals some serious (and potentially deadly) heat? Maybe we should abolish the Jail Standards Commission. Maybe Senator Whitmire's CJ Committee can look into that discrepency?

Anonymous said...

"I attended school in Texas until 11th grade"

If the school was air conditioned you might have graduated..... nah, probably not.

ckikerintulia said...

I attended school in Texas w/o a/c and did graduate. But we had windows and it got pretty hot the first weeks in September and the last weeks in May. But none of this has anything to do with 120 degree heat in a closed cell.

Lee said...

Grits, I understand that it is imperative that we treat prisoners humanely. My concern is that they get better healthcare than those in the free world whom have to deal with copay, deductable and 1800CustServ.

I would say that the greater mandate is to address the needs of the free law abiding population before the incarcerated population.

I would love to see prisons revert to being self sufficent and only violent offenders being housed there. My concern is the taxpayer dollar.

Crain Watcher said...

I think it is $10k or 14k a month rent for the Governor? How much is that a year? I could be Governor and it would not cost me 10k for a year for rent. Texas voters need a wakeup call. But only around 33% even vote. Let's see, that is the Governor's families and cronies (who sit on all the commission. One TDCJ Commissioner gave Gov. Perry 55K in contributions. How is that not buying a position? It is public record too. Of course they can break laws and never end up in prison. Texas Justice at its best can be seen on the concentration camps in Gatesville. I just talked to someone on the Crain Unit, around 124 degrees at 3pm in the dorms on Terrace and no cold water since 8am. The guard is too big to waddle over and get any and of course NO MINIMIUM CUSTODY PRISONER can be trusted to walk 50 feet from one building to another to get a rusty bucket of water filled. Maybe they do not want them to catch botulism? What a crime organization full of racketeers from top to bottom. I hear they are now selling the water to the inmates. Seems someone digging outside busted a water pipe and now the drinking fountain does not work. No hurry to fix that thing. GATESVILLE GULAGS!!!!! Why do you think they let school out for the summer? Because it is too hot? Not much common sense here!

Anonymous said...

Lee. All the Republikans in charge say's it is the individuals fault that you do not have the best health care in the world. Not prisoners fault and especially not their rich friends fault. The working man or women in this state that pays all the taxes, it is their fault. They are doing something wrong not our wonderful trickle down capitalist system that only takes care of the wealthy. The poor people out here, it is their fault they are poor, the use to be middle class, it is their fault the jobs and benefits are no longer here. No one can look back to, let’s say 1982 when the selling out of American begins and the imprisonment of its citizens begins. More people locked up in America than anywhere else in the world. Texas is now the largest prison system in the world. The Crain Unit now will not even clean an inmate’s teeth anymore. But I guess the reason is because the employees who have state sponsored dental refuse to use it, just look at their mouths when they talk. In-bred people believe no teeth does not relate to long term health problems. Medical down there is mid-evil to say the least. What is ashamed even if you can buy bottle water for your love ones on the Crain Unit, they cannot cool it and then what would the guards have to sell the inmates?

Crain Watcher said...

Prisoners do not pay a co-payment!!! No their families had to pay a $100.00 payment this year on top of all their own taxes, plus for close to six years now I have had to pay a $3.00 co-payment on top of my other bills and taxes so that my family member gets barbaric treatment at the Crain Unit. If you call down there, there is one real smart mouth woman that tells you right off the bat, that the offenders pay the co-payment and not the family member. Where do the inmates get the money from? How do you think they pay bribes to the guards down there? They get the money from the family members; because the inmates, I mean slaves do not get paid. Now you try to deal with the Patient Health Liaison on the phone with an attitude like that. Now someone high up on that unit such as the Warden or the head UTMB person must have told that woman with the New Yorker accent to say that on the phone. Even though the Sunset Commission and the State Criminal Justice Commission acknowledge the families pay the $100.00 fee. You see on the Crain Unit they make up rules with the poor medical and dental care as they go. How would you feel when a family member turns in sick requests after sick requests and someone that works on the unit throws them away as retaliation?

Anonymous said...

I think that the inmates should be treated just like any other human regardless to the reason they are incarcerated,because living without water and air is just not right especially in Texas.We have this 3 digit heat right now and it's not safe for anyone at all not even the inmates.The water conditions are just nasty and I think it should be changed and they should be able to have water and air in the units.Please change your minds and change things for these inmates before things go bad.

Anonymous said...

Gatesville Gulag, I guess u haven't been keeping up with the latest news or don't remember that last summer the windows were opened at hobby and remain open.

Hook Em Horns said...

The sad reality is that it will take federal intervention. Texans simply do not care, at all, about inmates or prisons as long as we have a lot of both.

Gatesville Gulag Watcher said...

ANON 6/28/2012 04:39:00 PM
Maybe the windows are opened at Hobby and maybe they are not. Sad it took 20 years for that to happened. I bet if no one was watching and reporting, nothing would ever happen and the abuses would not be expose. My source was a recently release inmate and I would believe them over a TDCJ employee anytime.

Unknown said...

I hope they sue, TDCJ's ass off!! I have such a hatred for their justice system. Now that I'm having to deal with it.

Anonymous said...

Gatesville Gulag Watcher..i've noticed all of the information you post is from inmate sources, i'm sure some of these things happen at a unit in Tx at some point but u don't seem to be able to have an objective viewpoint. Very little of what u post is from u seeing yourself and hearing things from a inmate is going to be slanted in their favor of course so u will feel bad for them. if a tale is told enough it gets changed ever time. is this all u and ur loved one who is locked up talk about? If things are so bad for your loved one why haven't you got her legal help to be moved to another unit? The heat is bad for all of us! Please try to be nice when responding to this post so Grits doesn't have to delete it, in the past the rants and rave don't do much for this blog and only shows how one sided you are and can't look at a things with a broader perspective.

Gatesville Gulag Watcher said...

Anon 6/28/2012 06:37:00 PM
Thank you, Thank you very much! Actually I have no family members in Texas Prison system; however, I have plenty of friends down there as do may other people. I know what their family members and I both see at visitation. And that is enough for me!!! It is Grits blog and he can delete anything at anytime, that is his right, but a blog is a blog and we still have freedom of speech in this country. If you do not like something on the television than change the channel but do not remove the show for everyone. If you do not like someone's thoughts or opinion than do not read them. I know you work for TDCJ because when an inmate stands up and tells on one of you what you do not want to hear, you write them up and brutely punish them. I saw this at visitation once. Just because TDCJ does not allow freedom of speech, does not mean us law abiding citizens who pay your salary have to shut our mouths. Where there is smoke there is fire.. No disrespect to Grits but this is his blog and he is in control but I think Grits respects freedom of speech and governement by the people for the people. This is the first step in any prison state and that is to take freedom of speech from its citizens. Who are you anyway? TDCJ motto is "they are lying because they are here" You know that works both ways, especially when you have so much to hide. I would love to take one of those community tours of any facility but that will never happen and I wonder why.

Phillip Baker said...

There it is! Every time there is talk about health care for inmates, somebody claims that their care is better than what we get in the freeworld. That statement is absurd on its face and displays a shocking lack of compassion. UTMB manages the health care for most of TDCJ. It is underfunded badly. Many of the staff are simply incompetent and could not work outside a prison.Many do not speak English. I have both worked as a health care provider in prison and fought for decent care for inmates I know. It would take far to long to catalogue all the deficiencies of the Tx prison health care system, but I know from experience that it is often 3rd world quality at best and more often simply denied. I challenge Lee et al to actually look into that care. See the disproportionate rates of amputations/blindness/kidney failure for diabetics. Check the number of inmates with Hepatitis C who are refused treatment (costly) and progress to severe liver damage and death. Look at the number of inmates with blood pressure trouble and see the number with heart damage, strokes, etc because of poor medical care. If anybody thinks this is care better than they get, you are welcome to go enjoy it. You'll be singing a whole different tune in about a week. It is an argument that reveals the stupidity, ignorance, and callousness of anyone who tries to make it.

Prison Doc said...

I am no fan of TDCJ management but the decisions being railed against here are LEGISLATIVE, TDCJ management does not have the authority or the money to wave a wand and cool the air in the units.

People who are really concerned--not those who just want to bitch--should support and contact legislators to do several things: First, reduce the prison population! Release the minor drug offenders, DWIs, Felons in possession of firearms, and other nonsense crimes. Lock up the residence burglars, "Crimes against persons" felons, etc. And also release the 19 year olds who were dating 15 year olds and are branded as "sex offenders". The Board of Pardons and Paroles is the great offender in releasing low risk offenders in a timely fashion.

Second, write them to provide at least cooled air at all facilities. It doesn't have to 72 degrees but it doesn't have to be 100 degrees either.

Finally, FIND OUT which legislators are involved in criminal justice matters--contact them and contribute to their campaigns if they appear promising.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6/28/2012 02:36:00 PM said...
"If the school was air conditioned you might have graduated..... nah, probably not."

As usual. Another brain-dead liberal shows us once again why there should be a test before we hand out voter registrations.

Anonymous said...

Some clever attorney could sue to get whole prison units released for "cruel and unusual" punishment. These people were sentenced to be locked up, not baked in an oven.

Anonymous said...

Wonder what the projected cost for Texas to litigate versus installing ac units? Regardless, I suppose litigation costs would probably go a long way in starting this project.

Peggy said...

My wish is for everyone with a negative attitude towards the inmates heat issues, find yourself locked up one day, or even a member of your family, and see if you are still spouting the same "dont care attitude". I seriously know that you would be just as outraged as we are, and fighting for the same things. Proper ventilation, cold water, and fans that work are not a lot to ask.

Anonymous said...

Prison Doc brings out the most important point in this discussion of A/C in the prisons. A rational and empathetic person can not argue that the prisons are in need of A/C but how is it going to be paid for?

At this point in time the Texas Prison System can not afford to pay enough to keep the security it needs, (and blaming it on the oil fields doesn't help a thing). The medical care is also grossly under funded.
After Christmas TDCJ took 46 million dollars from it's FY 2013 budget to fund medical care and continue the contract with UTMB until August 13th of this year. At present time there still is not a contract in place.

Prison Doc is also right, TDCJ can not pay for A/C. So, what is to be done about the dangerous heat in prison cells will have to be some sort of compromise on many of the fronts he outlines. It doesn't have to be 72 degrees and can't be.

Now that I bring up Federal Judges and their rulings... Texans need to ask themselves this question; what do they think will happen about the under funded prison medical care if there is another test case like Ruiz? If a Federal Judge gets to issuing court orders in arena again, I think that $7.75 an inmate a day is labile to go up. Ask California about this.

Anonymous said...

Simple attic fans would keep the indoor temps from rising above outdoor temps. TDCJ should at least be able to do that much.

How 'bout this: no air conditioning for TDCJ administrators until the inmates have air circulation.

Peggy said...

We spent a 1/2 million or more for Perry to rent a house until the Manse was ready, how many attic fans would that buy?

Let me make a clear point here, WE not asking for A/C, we are asking for proper ventilation and ice water.

Anonymous said...

I could see no AC in the northern parts of the US but the heat in Texas is killer. What I gather is that there is no fans either? Thats insane. Besides making the prisoners miserable and perhaps more violent, it would seem the heat would affect the employees state of mind and make them prone to be ?????? Do these prisons have a high employee turnover because of the heat? BTW write your reps to repeal Nobamacare.

Anonymous said...

I was told by some inmates (who just want me to feel sorry for them) on the Crain Unit that it is actually a big plastic barrel full of water that is bought over first thing in the morning and there is no spicket on it to dispense the water. So everyone goes over and draws the water out of it with whatever they have, such as an old water bottle, cup or picture. After a few minutes the water is nasty and looks grey like creek water. Now that is a recipe for disaster as far as hygienic goes. Some of them cannot wash those containers clean and everyone draws from the barrel. That is how biological pathogens are spread and diseases occur. This leads to health care costs that are unnecessary. Then at the end of the day the old dirty plastic barrel is refilled. This goes back to the ole plantation and master days, were the slaves had to do this same very thing for water and then go to the fields singing happy songs for master. This is something that happened daily over 100 years ago and still happens today in the Gatesville Gulags. I just do not believe the 5 inmates who wrote me about this with the same story can possible are lying. Why want the Unit let anyone outside in to verify this is not true. Anon who replied that I am just ranting and raving should know this is dangerously unhealthy to begin with but I am sure this person does this at home with their family too. It does not take too much education to realize how stupid and dangerous this is. Even the military will not allow this because dirty water causes all kinds of diseases. But hey the excuse will be that I am lying from second hand knowledge and of course “Inmates are lying because they are there”. This is why they only advertise community tours but in reality if the most harden “tuff on crime” people can see this is cruel and unusual punishment and the tax payers will pick up the medical cost later, one way or the other and would be appalled by this unhealthy drinking water. Not even animals are treated this way in pounds. But then again at Plane State, they have a section the guards call the dog pound for the newly arrived inmates and I have been told that description fits that place to the T. Anon, you seem to know so much about this and the inmates are lying so you say. Why do TDCJ or this Unit still make human beings drink from a barrel like the slave masters did between 1600 and 1865?

Anonymous said...

At our unit, there is no bucket for common dipping- we have large Igloo coolers filled with ice water. Maybe other units operate that way, but I doubt it. I agree that there should be a baseline for climate control. It's funny to listen to some of these inmate family members griping about their babies. You say you want a tour? I suggest you hire on, and deal with the trash we deal with. 13 hour days, in the same heat your baby deals with oftentimes. I agree that the prison population needs to be reduced greatly, but until it does, most of those dudes just learn how to be better conmen whilst locked up. Think you can trust them? Really? Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Well, 1:01, if you have such a miserable job, it seems you should go find another one. But, I suspect you really enjoy your job because you love the power you have over what you call "trash."

Anonymous said...

Anon 101: This is why I believe the inmates because of you and your attitude. I have probably seen you at visitation berating inmates in front of their children and mothers. Threatening to write them up in front of their family after you cut their visits off early. I have seen this with my own eyes. No inmate had to tell me this one!!! This I have seen, so I put nothing past the awful guards either. TDCJ websites advertises community tours at certain units on the website. Not me!!! Why don't you go to Huntsvile or Austin and tell them to take that off the website? I say the only thing worst than an inmate is a guard!!! Let the law suits begin!!!!! I have seen to many uneducated guards enjoy their abuse of power down in Gatesville, It is the climate of power abuse. You just prove to me the inmates are not the sole problem in those prisons. Maybe if they were treated as humans no one would call you on abuse!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey 1:01, you should be thanking that "trash." If it wasn't for them you'd be working at McDonalds.

Anonymous said...

Y'all are hilarious. Do you folks expect there are no inmates you'd describe as trashy? Are there no inmates you would classify as worthless? Are there no crimes so terrible? You probably don't really know what goes on inside a unit. You may have been told, but you're biased to the 'truth' your loved one told you. I'm not saying all of your husbands and sons are liars. I would like to ask you what your man did to find his way into state custody. Not just the most recent charge- all of them. Would you even be aware? I reckon not. I don't expect you to trust me. I am your enemy, right? You have the knowledge provided to you by your inmate, or learned on your own while locked up. Why would you trust me? I'm just the uneducated hack who is waiting to be fired for abusing your honey so I can be turned down for a Walmart greeter job. That's what you'd like to believe, isn't it? It's funny and sad, simultaneously. Y'all rail against us so much, yet you have no practical solution. How do you propose to change TDC? Law suits? Mebby- mebby not. We are already understaffed. I'm sure you have a grand plan you're just squirming to release upon Texas to help attract more officers who will be to your liking. This ought to be good ;)

Anonymous said...

9:22, have you ever thought about the fact that we are all sinners. That means none of us are any better than anyone else. That is why Christ became the sacrifice for us, because none of us are worthy on our own. Jesus told us to the "visit" those in prison. He spent a great deal of his time ministering to the poor, the outcasts, the "trash" of society. Here's the truth -- neither you, nor I are any better than the worst of the worst prisoners. We're all sinners, one and the same.

I have no doubt that your job can be difficult. But, the attitude you display towards your fellow man is disturbing (unfortunately its an all too common attitude). I suppose that people have always needed a group to feel superior too - in the past it was based on race or other factors. Now, we create an endless number of criminal statutes so we can lock people up and claim we are superior. Well, my friend, neither you, nor I, are superior to a single one of those inmates.

I'm not going to question where your heart is spiritually - I have no idea. But, if you claim to be a Christian - remember, Christ told us to love both our neighbors and our enemies. You may not want to acknowledge it, but those inmates are your neighbors. How have you shown the love of Christ to them? If you are a Christian, God has put you where you are for a reason. You have a responsibility to minister to those people. I don't see how, with your current attitude towards them that you can do that. Maybe some time spend in prayer would help. I'll be praying for you also.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7/03/2012 09:22:00 PM, How to change TDCJ? When the FEDS had TDCJ under their thumb things were much better. Maybe allow friendS who do not have a criminal record contact visit? Wait a minute TDCJ employees think we want to have sex in an open room in front of the world. NO!! We just want to be able to talk to our love ones in a rational toned voice and not have to yell over everyone and through plexi-glass like at the Terrace Unit. Hug them when we leave them behind. What would it hurt to hug someone? That would take away the power of control! It is funny how blood relatives can have a criminal record and be allowed contact visitation but a friend who has never been arrested is treated as a low life by the state employees they pay. TDCJ is probably too broken to be helped now. Younger people do want something for nothing and will either not be there long or do unethical things to make up for the lack of pay. What will probably happen in the next couple of years is riots that the state of Texas has never seen and then I want to see TDCJ explains that away. I know let's blame it on their friends with no criminal records! One thing is the people in charge need to treat the guards with respect but the guards have to follow the rules themselves, that would be a big start. Then just maybe it would not hurt to actually rehabilitate these inmates instead of only teaching them resentment. Let me see, we have a captive group of people, but it is so much more important to put them outside as slaves than to teach them skills they can actually use today instead of out of date skills that are only useful on a prison farm. I will pay more taxes and invest in education for prisoners; however, our state elected leaders have cut education to the bone for kids in Texas and they do not want poor kids to be educated or receive medical care because this would stop the flow of new slaves to the prison farms. I would think outside of lawsuits that FORCE TDCJ to do right, there is little hope for them to do it themselves. This is a corrupt state to begin with and the Masters still have the poor whites and minorities doing their dirty work for their masters. Maybe the best thing is for the FEDS to take over again, at least there was a little dignity and respect for the tax payers who unfortunately feel the need to visit people in prison because they know there is no rehabilitation in TDCJ!

Sheldon tyc#47333 said...

Gatesville, I was there in the 70’s before TDC took it over. There was no AC. The facility is in a valley that gets great breezes. The buildings are all built and situated to take advantage of the breezes and in the hotter months fans were set up. There were drinking fountains that produced chilled water on every dorm. I’ve mopped the floors of almost every dorm out there, in the summer, and it wasn’t that hot.
However since TDC took over the place has fell into extreme disrepair. The lawn is pathetic and the construction that was done to facilitate the female TDC offenders appears as though cruelty in design was the one and only business rule. All that was done to architect the buildings to prevent suffocation has been destroyed by the local indigenous now backed by TDC.
Gatesville’s history is impregnated with battles to maintain a culture of cruelty to the state inmates who have occupied that valley. Where so many have failed to stop the Gatesville humanoids from child abuse the Feds thought they finely shut down that place in 1971. Out of fear that even more atrocities would be unearthed the state let the humanoids of Gatesville continue their behavior with the ladies of TDC. What else could generational practitioners of cruel and unusual punishment do?
The reason Hitler chose Poland to commit the murders of 10 million+ people is because the Polish citizens would be more acceptable to go along with it. Christianity is a religion where one of its core principals is to demonize others who don’t follow the same cult practices. It should be a no brainer to the person of average intelligence why little shit bergs like Gatesville whose reformatory opened in 1889 and Huntsville home of our states massive prison industry have mastered the art of schadenfreude. The good Christians are OK with it.
They say, their just criminals or Gypsys or Jews or whatever label their good Christian brain can justify so as projecting their soulless hatred against another human who is created in the image of Gd. The professed god of their particular brand of religiosity lets them dump responsibility for their cruelty on it absolving themselves of the atrocities they commit against the image of Gd. As the Saturday Night Live Kerch lady would say, how convenient.
When bitch slapped by a federal judge for their inhuman treatment they retaliate against the taxpaying citizens of this state. To work for the state is to truly be possessed by an enhanced sprit of entitlement.
To a spiritually aware person a drive through Gatesville will bring about an experience of heaviness and is said to be a spiritual darkness so thick you can cut it with a knife. Talk to the indigenous humanoids who occupy this town, they sound a lot like the Poles. Hitler and his Nazis thumped the bible just like some in Texas leadership and bureaucratic roles. Its powerful, it controls the foolish, brain washes the ignorant and most important, in Texas garnish’s the vote.
The construction that was done to facilitate the female TDC offenders appears as though cruelty by design was the one and only business rule. This is a place where the people have lived off the misery of others and have protected that livelihood at a cost most decent God fearing people couldn’t imagine. Gatesville is Schadenfreude at its finest and is an example of how this social disease can progress unchecked.

Anonymous said...

This was actaully posted by a guard from the Crain Unit on a Correctional Officer Forum today.

BY: Crain CO

I bet it was nice and cool in there....
they need to come visit where there is no AC
roaches are crawling around pipechase and the ceiling tiles fall apart while the water is dripping from the pipes over head...
how about a visit to one of our facilities Hairy Perry and Senator Twitmire?

So to all the ANON'S on here that say we are all lying for our darling inmates?
Things that make you go HMMM!!!

Big Texas News said...

Do the crime, do the time. Why cry for a/c for the sex offender that raped a child. I have no petty on their souls. The child will never forget the abuse. Spend that a/c money on the child. Sounds like ya'll want them to stay at the Four Seasons in Houston, with room service.

Anonymous said...

TDCJ house the sex offenders with the cops, judges, and other public officials who committed crimes against citizens in a nice air conditioned facility. Birds of a feather flock/housed together as its said. It’s the women and pot heads that don’t get ac. Bureaucrats, cops and sex offenders people of the same character.

Big Texas News said...

Ramsey Unit, Has a secure a/c building for the Judges, Rap stars, Football stars and Police officers. They do not get close to the other inmates. They have big price tags on their heads. Only a select few CO's are assigned to them. They do get rec, two Co's escort them all the time. Ramsey Unit has a two story dorm full of child molesters.

Anonymous said...

Big Texas News, Why should they be treated differently from anyone else? They have a big price on their heads because they screwed people over too, no different from a drug dealer who ripped someone off, or a internet theif who stole someones money. They would get what is called KARMA in general population and that I WOULD SUPPORT!!!! You proved the point once again, TDCJ and the top 1% of Texas population do not want to rehabilitate anyone. The rich man still has the poor whites and minorities brain washed and doing their dirty work. Those use to be somebodies should be baking in the same TDCJ ovens.

Anonymous said...

" Big Texas News " let me make this clear. No one but the low paid guards should get A/C. Lets go back to working the inmates in the fields. TDCJ gives the offender no reason not to return. Their family cries over their rights. They forget about the poor victim that did not ask to be raped, robbed or killed.

Anonymous said...

So many post are one sided and some even naive. Once again Sheldon you nailed the cause behind the effect. If only my fellow Christians would read the book they thump perhaps they would become God fearing with an effect the would cause the thinking behind places like Gatesville and Huntsville to become a thing of a barbaric past. I can only pray that one day Texas self proclaimed Christian leadership would become more civilized.

Anonymous said...

" Big Texas News" I want to hug a thug ( Child Molesters ) with my bare hands. A Child Molester will never stop having sexual thoughts for a child. They are going straight to hell.

Anonymous said...

Do you really seriously think the majority of inmates--especially the females at Gatesville--are there for child molestation, rape, and murder? REALLY? Almost every single woman I spent 10 months there with was there for a drug related offense--sometimes something as minor as answering the phone and telling someone where her drug dealer boyfriend was (organized crime, dontcha know). I was there for calling in a refill on my prescribed hydrocodone cough syrup that I became dependent on. Was this wrong? Sure it was. Does it make me equal to a rapist or murderer? I don't think so.

As for the heat--our unit was supposed to be a medical unit (special needs SAFP for pregnant, ill or mentally ill inmates). However, the A/C didn't work. We sweltered in cinderblock buildings with tin roofs. Our fans were taken away regularly as part of the "mass punishment" philosophy of the SAFP program--i.e., one breaks a rule, all are punished. The unit fan--we had one fan per dorm and each half got it for part of the day, and there was NO WAY to position it to blow on all or even most offenders due to the walls and the way the dorms were built. People passed out right and left, seized, died.

Anonymous said...

Mass Punishment on the Crain Unit? Say it is not so? What they want is for the inmates to sang old plantation songs for master warden and the cruel and brutal guards on their little horses. Your getting to close to the horses. Then move the horses out of the way, but then they cannot write the women up for failing to keep up with swinging those aggies. They write the women up who cannot keep up the pace, for their slave masters, brutally punish them for not being able to swing aggies like a farm slave. But they tell family members this is not true, "they just do not want to work". Who in their right mind would? They stand around and bragg about this at visitation in front of the inmates family members and threaten them with write ups in front of their family members and kids too. Do not be fooled they tell the inmates that "we do not do officers complaints any more" and when they write those case they tell them "it gives us job security". It makes poor under educated guards feel like lawyers and judges so they have someone to feel superior to and their own miserable lives do not look as bad to them. They are lower than dog poo there, and the inmates are truely abused on this unit.

Anonymous said...

Grits when did the ventilation in the old units like Gatesville and the old plantations like Clements, Ferguson, Eastham and the like get remodeled out of existence? These places were built to take advantage of the breezes. The dorms at Terrace and Hackberry when I was there in the late 80’s were some of the coolest because of the breezes that come across that Valley. We had 2 big pole fans per dorm 1 for each side of the bunk room and there was a chilled drinking fountain. Is this not still the case?
Hoe squads generally went out before sun up and came in to shower in the afternoon during the hottest time of the day. Does that not still happen?
What is the history of heat related deaths resulting from sitting around the dorm or cell block? Is there any record prior to Ruiz?
Is this suffocation of inmates part of the TDC retaliation from Ruiz?

Anonymous said...

Some of the chilled water fountains are not working now because a pipe got busted from digging, I was told. They set the dorms up with cubicles, catwalk, and inside pickets, so the air does not move through freely anymore. This is because of security threats these minimum security women poise. I am sure they are much more violent than men. Compound this with officers who enjoy threaten, physically assaulting, hazing, and inappropriate relationships, this is a recipe for disaster. But hey want do I know? I can only go by what I have witness at visitation and the officer treatment of the inmates in front of their families is criminal. Of course my little inmate darlings who are “liars, slant the truth in their favor” tell me. The culture and attitude of abuse has not changed down in Gatesville but has gotten worst since the FEDS left. Ho squads do not plant crops anymore, they are turned out to the fields to swing aggies into the ground or saw tree limbs, the sick go to the gym to sit in the hot metal gym building to just sweat. The Ho squad is used today to brutal punish the women who cannot keep up and are new to prison farm slave labor. Tons of cases are written every day because women cannot keep up with the Ho squad work. Ho squad is used today to brutally and cruelly punish the women down there. You know just being in prison is not punishment enough for anyone today. The culture of the over 100 years of abuse is still alive and well. Every day the inmate slaves are put outside on the Ho squad to swing aggies until 12 noon but then they are told it is too hot for them to have recreation at 6pm. You see anything that benefits the inmates like recreation will be taken away from the inmates but it is never too hot to swing aggies at grass.

Anonymous said...

You said it so right because,unless them people go to prison and see what its really like then they should "SHUT THEIR MOUTH"! I have 2 sons,a brother,husband and daughter n law along with a niece all in prisons and I've been going through this for 7 years now and not a day goes by that I dnt worry about them and every one else that has to sit in that heat like animals! The fact is that no matter what they did They are still human beings NOT ANIMALS but hey they treat animals better but they dnt care because they get to go home to cool air,a comfy bed,cooked meals,a fridge,cold water and every thing elseand its so sad how Tdcj treats people. Thank you for your words on behalf of all inmates in Texas prisons and may God bless you and your family.

Betty said...

This message is for Lee who talked about how great inmates are treated. First off many times the food is just above slop, I have witnessed inmates being fed food that had had maggots on it. Even if they have gardens and work in the field, the best stuff is sold, not fed to inmate. Health care...give me a break, inmates are charged for it. And its a waste of money most of the time. As for free rent and electricity, are you out of your freaking mind??? Ever heard of a hoe squad??? Most of the inmates work, either in the field,kitchen, laundry,dorms or which ever factory said prison has. You do NOT know what your talking about. In the summer the heat is brutal, all a person can do is lay on the concrete with wet clothes to cool off, even the fans blow hot air.

Anonymous said...

May I make a suggestion (less expensive than a/c) to address the problem? I lived in the Middle East for years, (average summer temp above 120F), and a/c did not work because of the low humidity. A "desert cooler" kept the interior of a large building very cool. A box with an open end was mounted outside a window, with a fan inside. A straw mat hung over the open end of the box, in front of the window. A small water hose with a plugged spout was fixed at the top of the mat, with some small holes punched in it above the mat. A trickle of water came into the hose and the water seeped out of the holes in the hose, dripping down the mat. The fan, blowing through the damp mat, cooling the air by evaporation. This works in climates with low humidity, and I would think this would be a simple remedy for the excessive heat problem, if humidity is low. Barred windows would also pose no barrier to this solution.

Anonymous said...

Well, being on the hutchins unit on july 22 when the guy had the seizure it took them 22 minutes to respond to the call since the officers would reconize the problem. Most people dont know what goes on in prisons or let's say even on the "hutchins unit" that unit is one of the worst ones in the state. theres no air flow with 58 men to a dorn. the tempature gets up to 129F. you can't live in it. there's a wonder why more people havent passed away do to the heat!

Anonymous said...

The percentage of mentally I'll inmates who commit non violent crimes is astounding. If they give them their meds at all. It compounds the problem becausemany of those meds will cause more risk to heat stroke .they belong in treatment centers not jail. It has been proven that if only the mentally or medically I'll were given jail diversion they could add some acceptable method of keeping inmates cooler. Many families are willing to pay for treatment if the courts would order it
There are very few counties testing this and it works. Buy no the powers to be would rather turn the prison system into death traps and a huge commercial industry

Jim Tracy said...

It amazes me that there was not changes to the prison temperature regulations after the first incident. You would think that would be a wake up call, and changes would be made. But three more after that? Legal action definitely needs to take place at this point.

Jim Tracy | http://www.garryseamanlawfirm.com/practice-areas