Union officials said corrections officers have complained to Texas prison officials that the heat index inside facilities is often as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit, but haven't been able to persuade them to make changes. They said they were driven to speak out after learning that the state spent $750,000 in June to buy six new barns with exhaust fans and misters to cool pigs raised for inmate consumption.At least five other states currently face litigation over un-air-conditioned prisons, the paper said, but Texas is the only one where prison guards have lept into the fray. The Journal added some context from other jurisdictions:
"We don't keep our animals in these type of conditions and that speaks volumes," said Lance Lowry, who worked as a corrections officer for 13 years and is now president of the Hunstville, Texas-based local of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Union, which represents many state prison workers.
Suits in other states have led to settlements and changes in recent years. In 2004, Wisconsin agreed to install air conditioning in the state's most-secure prison—a so-called Supermax—after a federal appeals court upheld a lower court's ruling that the prison had to maintain safe temperatures.The paper added that:
After a similar court finding in 2010, Arizona's Maricopa County Jail began housing mentally ill inmates on psychotropic drugs, which interfere with a body's ability to regulate temperature, in areas cooled to a maximum of 85 degrees. A separate suit on behalf of mentally ill patients in the Arizona Department of Corrections is pending. Arizona's prisons have air conditioning or evaporative coolers, said Doug Nick, a spokesman for the state's prison agency.
In Texas, state law requires county jails to keep temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees. "They house pretrial detainees who have not yet lost certain rights," said Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. But similar requirements don't exist for state prisons. ...
In the last fiscal year in Texas ended Aug. 31, 55 corrections officers reported getting sick from heat, down from 92 the previous year, according to the state. At least 14 inmates have died from heat-related causes in the past six years, according to court records in the wrongful-death suits."