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Deadly Heat in Texas Prisons

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2014
40 pages
After documenting that inmates under the care of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) are being exposed to dangerously high temperatures that are causing inmate injuries and deaths, this report concludes that the TDCJ is violating the human and constitutional rights of inmates in Texas by exposing them to such temperatures.
Despite repeated, serious, heat-related incidents of harm to inmates, the TDCJ has yet to implement measures that effectively mitigate heat-related injuries in inmate housing. Although the TDCJ has installed fans and provided for ventilation in inmate living areas, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has proven these measures to be ineffective in preventing heat-related injuries in the hot and humid conditions that prevail in TDCJ facilities. Facilities do not generally provide air conditioning for general inmate living areas. In addition, the TDCJ has not set a maximum temperature for inmate housing, even though the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and numerous other State departments of corrections across the country have done so the Human Rights Clinic of the University of Texas School of Law concludes that current conditions in TDCJ facilities constitute a violation of Texas' duty to guarantee the rights to health, life, physical integrity, and dignity of detainees, as well as its duty to prevent inhuman treatment of its inmates. Three recommendations are proposed. First, the TDCJ should immediately codify and implement policies for the coming summer months that will prevent exposing inmates to extreme heat conditions. Second, a maximum temperature standard of 85 degrees F should be set for all TDCJ facilities. Third, The TDCJ Board and Texas Legislature should approve funding for the installation of permanent air-conditioning at all TDCJ prison facilities so as to ensure that temperatures do not exceed 85 degrees F. 5 figures and 235 notes