As the ongoing heatwave makes headlines for raging through the United States, inmates all over the country are “cooking” in prison cells that lack air conditioning.
In an effort to call attention to what’s going on within these cells, a formerly-incarcerated man named Calvin Johnson is describing some of the methods he and inmates used to keep cool during his 37-year stint in a Texas prison.
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Former Inmate Recalls Seeing Men Pass Out “From The Heat”
According to BBC News, the 67-year-old shed light on one method he utilized “a bunch of times,” which involved clogging the cell toilet to “lay in the water.”
“Sometimes you can clog the commode and let the water run. Put your pants and your shirt across that, and lay in the water for a while.”
Johnson added, “People passed out from the heat. I’ve seen that many times.”
The publication notes that, of the 100 prisons affiliated with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), only 31 are entirely air-conditioned. While 55 have partial air conditioning, 14 have none at all.
At Least 23 Texas Prisoners Reportedly Died From Mid-June To Mid-July
With this information in mind, it’s important to call attention to how inmates are currently faring with 2023’s record-breaking heat.
According to a Jul. 18 report by The Texas Tribune, at least 23 inmates died since mid-June as outside temperatures soared into the triple-digits. Family members responded by calling for Gov. Greg Abbott (R.) to initiate immediate legislation to cool down the prisons.
In fact, the publication notes one grieving mother as declaring, “They’re cooking our babies alive!”
In response to these comments, TDCJ spokesperson Amanda Hernandez told BBC News, “Everyone has access to ice and water.”
“Fans are strategically placed in facilities to move the air. Inmates have access to a fan and they can access air-conditioned respite areas when needed.”
On the flip side, Clifton Buchanan — a former correctional officer serving as a deputy director for AFSCME Texas Corrections, which represents TDCJ employees — called attention to how the conditions impact both inmates and officers.
“Everything inmates suffer from, we do as well.”
After noting that employees are “working in an inferno,” Buchanan questioned, “Does one of our staff have to die before they will put AC there?”