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Home Lawsuit Prisoners in Texas jails are using toilet water to cool down because of extremely hot conditions, according to a lawsuit

Prisoners in Texas jails are using toilet water to cool down because of extremely hot conditions, according to a lawsuit

Intense triple-digit heat and absence of air conditioning in Texas state prisons have caused many deaths, leading some prisoners to clog their toilets and lie down in the water on the cell floor to cool off, according to a lawsuit filed by a prisoner who experienced symptoms of heat-related stroke while confined in one of the facilities.

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A federal lawsuit alleges inmates are dying in hot Texas prisons without air conditioning. (Inset photo from KXAN-TV/YouTube; Background photo from CBS News/YouTube)

A lawsuit claims that inmates are dying in hot Texas prisons without air conditioning.

The extremely hot weather and lack of air conditioning in Texas state prisons has led to hundreds of deaths, forcing some prisoners to flood their toilets and lie in the water on the floor to cool down, according to a lawsuit filed by a prisoner who experienced heat-related stroke symptoms while in one of the lockups.

65-year-old Bernhardt Tiede II, known for the murder of an 81-year-old widow and featured in the 2011 movie “Bernie,” complained about being housed in a cell that reached 112 degrees at the Estelle Unit in Huntsville, Texas, according to his lawsuit..

Lancy Lowry, former head of the Correctional Officers Union, stated in court documents, “We’re not trying to make this lush, we’re trying to make it humane. These are third world conditions. We’re supposed to run prisons, not concentration camps. These are institutions for incarceration. The incarceration is their punishment. Not cooking them to death.”

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Jeff Edwards, who in 2014 handled a case involving heat stroke deaths that led to the installation of air conditioning at the Wallace Pack Unit near College Station, informed reporters that this problem has a simple solution.

Edwards said, “What is truly infuriating is the failure to acknowledge that everyone in the system — all 130,000 prisoners — are at direct risk of being impacted by something that has a simple solution that has been around since the 1930s, and that is air conditioning.”

A media representative from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which manages prisons, refused to comment, citing pending litigation.

According to a spokesperson for Law&Crime, the agency recently established two new web pages, one outlining enhanced heat protocols and one displaying the progress of construction of new air conditioning, after receiving $85 million in funding. Currently, officials stated that 45,498 cool beds are available, with 13,714 either under construction or in the design phase.

The lawsuit claims that the extreme heat has caused a lot of problems in Texas’ prisons for many years, leading to a significant increase in sickness and deaths. Last summer, numerous people died, and many more suffered serious heat-related illnesses because of the high temperatures in prisons, according to court documents. The lawsuit mentioned that most prisons in the state system do not have air conditioning in the inmate housing units, leaving about 85,000 of the roughly 130,000 TDCJ inmates without air conditioning. As mentioned in the lawsuit, as temperatures rise due to global climate change, the problem will only worsen.

“Last summer was the second hottest on record in Texas, with some TDCJ units reaching an astonishing 149 degrees,” the lawsuit said.

A U.S. Congressman for Texas put it simply: “Being in a 115-degree prison is the definition of cruel and unusual punishment,” the lawsuit said.

Officials stated that they found 271 deaths caused by extreme heat in Texas prisons from 2001 to 2019 — an average of 14 deaths per year, as per court documents.

The lawsuit claims that for many years, numerous inmates and correctional officers have become sick and suffered unnecessarily from heat-related issues.

The lawsuit included some of the deaths.

A man serving a short prison term for driving under the influence suffered a heat stroke and died in 2011 after spending four days in the jail, according to court documents. In the 38 days before his death, the temperature in the prison was over 100 degrees for 30 days.

Approximately a week later, a 46-year-old man died from heat stroke, as per court documents. The following day, a 50-year-old prisoner also died from heat stroke. The man had developmental disabilities and depression, and the court documents said that he was taking medication that made him highly vulnerable to heat stroke.


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