Friday, October 18, 2013

Climate-controlled hog barns spurred union participation in prisoner heat suit

Though the article didn't mention Grits, a Wall Street Journal report today ("Extreme heat tests prisons") credited a meme first articulated on this blog - that TDCJ is constructing climate-controlled facilities for its hogs while most prison units are left to bake in the summer sun - with the unprecedented decision of the state's leading prison-guard union to support an inmate lawsuit over excessive heat and oppressive working/living conditions.
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.

"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.
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:
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.

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.
The paper added that:
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."


Anonymous said...

It is interesting that they claim that only 14 deaths have been attributed to heat in Texas prisons over the past six years. I was housed at the Pack 1 unit from 2010 - 2013, a so-called medical unit. During my three year confinement there, we lost an average of 4 people a year due to heat related deaths. That is just one unit. Prior to being incarcerated at the Pack 1 unit, I was housed at the Retrieve unit in Angleton. I personally lost 2 friends, one who was scheduled to go home in a month, who died of heat strokes. In the two years that I was at Retrieve, at least 12 people died there from heat related illnesses. As for being given water and ice. what a joke. It was a rarity that I was ever given any ice at either one of the mentioned units. The administration always had some excuse, usually that the ice machines were not producing as they should, but the guards were always given more than they could use. The real insult to that situation is that they actually assign inmates to hauling a cart around filled with ice and water for the guards, while the inmates sit in their cells, day rooms and dorms, suffering. Is not losing your freedom, being screwed for life, being locked up like an animal in a cage like an animal, not enough punishment? As for hogs raised for inmate consumption, that is the biggest lie of them all. The majority of the meat butchered from hogs in Texas prison, never reaches prisoners. The Same applies with cattle and chickens. I have no doubt that TDCJ spent $750k on air conditioned hog barns. TDCJ is a business and they are not about to lose money over dead hogs. Inmates are expendable to the state of Texas. I spent 8 years in prison for writing an a bad check for under $1,500 dollars. I never used a gun in a crime, assaulted, raped or killed anyone. I have never sold drugs. One of my closest acquaintances received 80 years for shooting a flare gun off in his back yard because it came within two hundred yards (the length of two football fields) from a police helicopter. I am not condoning any crime. If you break the law you should be held accountable. However, it does not take a person very long once incarcerated in Texas has no problem sending people to jail for life to keep their lucrative prison industries profitable. What the public does not realize is that once you go to prison in Texas, for the most part, your life is over. This is the only state in the country where prison and parole officials consider openly admit that they consider parole a furlough. I know people out their think that prisoners are treated to good in this country. I invite anyone who thinks that to spend even one week in a cell that ranges in temperatures of 110-130 degrees for months at a time. What the report did not indicate is that even when it starts cooling off at night outside, the cinder block and steel walls of the prisons, retain the heat from the day.

Anonymous said...

I never heard anything about the woman who died in solidary confinement, oops, I mean PHD on the Crain Unit in August 2013. I am sure it got covered up also. They ought to change the TDCJ mission to "HOPE YOU ENJOYED YOUR STAY AND COME BACK SOON". It is a business to those corrupted politicians in Austin and TDCJ top officials with all the bribes and kick backs they receive. Do not even get me started on the Parole Board, it is the EPITOME of Corruption. If I ever have to sit on a jury there is no way I could convict anyone and send them to TDCJ, no matter what they have done.

Anonymous said...

The guy said county jails are cooled because "They house pretrial detainees who have not yet lost certain rights," said Brandon Wood. But what rights do they have that state prisoner's have lost? Both are incarcerated. The only right that a county jail inmate would have that a state prisoner wouldn't would be the right to vote. But other than that, I don't see any difference as both are behind bars. Yeah, a county jail inmate could be set free at some point. But I am talking about the period of time they are behind bars, the bars are no different for the jail or the prison. you get me?