The Texas A&M Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center scrutinized the heat mitigation policies used by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
According to the report, only 30 percent of prison units in Texas are fully air-conditioned, and Texas is one of 13 states that do not have universal air conditioning in state prisons.
“There are 100 TDCJ units, 31 units with full AC, 55 with partial AC, and 14 without AC,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice Communications Director Amanda Hernandez told CNN in an email. She added, “We take many precautions to lessen the effects of hot temperatures on those detained in our facility.”
The Department manages inmates in state prisons, state prisons, and private correctional facilities contracted with the state.
The report warned “rising annual temperatures and the rise of days above 100 degrees in Texas will continue to exacerbate the health deterioration for both incarcerated people and staff.”
Texas A&M University associate professor of research J. Carlee Purdum presented the report’s findings to Texas lawmakers last week during testimony from the Texas Appropriations Commission.
“With our prisons not having air conditioning, it’s a really dangerous situation,” Purdum said. “When we have a heatwave like this summer, it can lead to disastrous consequences.”
According to the report, there have been at least 23 heat-related deaths among detainees since 1998, and in 2018 “at least 79 detainees and prison staff reported illnesses”. associated with heat in the January-October period”.
Heat-related illnesses reported in the report included heat stroke or heat exhaustion, unconsciousness, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, disorientation, cramps, and heat rash.
Hernandez told CNN that state facilities have measures in place to keep inmates safe during periods of high heat.
“Like Texans who don’t have air conditioning in their homes, the department uses a variety of measures to keep inmates safe. Everyone has access to ice and water. Fans are placed in an orderly manner. strategy in the facility to move the air.The inmates have Hernandez said.
Hernandez added, “The agency recognizes that some prisoners are at increased risk for heat-related illnesses because of their age, health conditions, or medications. Individuals with heat-sensitive scores are preferred. put in an air-conditioned housing area.”
Despite the current situation with their facilities, Hernandez says the agency is committed to doing all it can to keep staff and inmates safe.
CNN’s Joe Sutton and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.