The union that represents Texas’ correctional officers on Thursday announced its support for lawsuits filed over the deaths of at least 14 convicts in sweltering state prisons, saying the lockups should be cooled to relieve unbearable and dangerous conditions.The article closed with details of the guard's complaints:
At a time when civil-rights lawsuits are pending in several Southern states, where the summer heat is hottest and most state prisons are not air conditioned, the development could add new impetus to a public debate in Texas over whether the time has come for some form of cooling systems.
At a press conference in Austin, Lance Lowry, president of a Huntsville-based local of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, said the union plans to join in pending litigation — including a possible request for federal court intervention over temperatures inside prisons that he said can reach 130 degrees on some days.
A temperature log at the Hutchins State Jail outside Dallas shows heat indexes of 150 degrees July 19, 2011, among other readings reaching well over 100 degree at other times that same day. In general, the outside air temperatures recorded at those times were about 10 degrees cooler.
For Lowry and other Texas correctional officers, working in temperatures that hover around 100 degrees in summer months is too much — especially for correctional officers who are on heat-sensitive medication, are obese or have hypertension and other health issues.
“It feels like you’re working inside a convection oven,” said Lowry, a 13-year veteran. And the large fans that have been installed in prisons, “just blow hot air … . The noise can drown out cries for help, even calls on the radio.”