Prisoners Are Suing States Over Lack of Adequate Cool Air and Water: Should You Be One of Them?

Posted on: 6 April 2017


The headlines focused around the lawsuits filed by some Texas inmates made it seem like the prisoners were asking for everything but a mint on their pillow at night -- they were actually asking for air conditioning in their cells. Before you're tempted to think that air conditioning is an expensive luxury that prisoners don't deserve and that a claim that the lack of air conditioning is injuring them is just a joke, consider these facts.

1. The buildings are old, poorly ventilated, and get as hot as concrete and steel ovens, averaging 104 degrees in the beginning of summer -- which means many days it's actually a lot higher. During the summer, one prison's cells can reach an unbelievable 140 degrees.

2. The aging inmate population means that there are many inmates who have heart conditions, high blood pressure, and are on medications that require the person taking them to stay out of the heat. 

3. In some prisons, access to water is strictly regulated. For example, one medium security prison west of Dallas has a 10-gallon water cooler that's kept locked away. An inmate is given one 8 oz cup of water every 4 hours -- about half of what he should have in ordinary conditions and less than half in extreme heat.

4. Heat-related deaths are often misrepresented as heart attacks, according to inmates. Attorneys fighting to get records believe that several dozen deaths are misrepresented that way each year.

5. Retrofitting old buildings for modern air conditioning is expensive. However, Louisiana, for example, spent $1 million to fight the installation of air conditioning on its death row in Angola prison. Installing the air conditioning would have only cost the state $225,000.

6. Someone who is in a prison during his or her trial period -- while still presumed innocent -- will still face the same brutal conditions and treatment. 

7. Heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses can cause permanent damage to someone's brain, kidneys, and heart. Locking a prisoner in a cell that climbs to unbearable temperatures is going to have the same effect locking a dog or child in a hot car would have -- which is cruel and unnecessary.

If you or a loved one suffered permanent physical damage as a result of being exposed to extreme temperatures while in jail, especially if your jailers knew that you had a fragile medical condition or took medication (for example, seizure medication) that made you susceptible to injury from heat, consider talking to a personal injury attorney about filing a claim.