The heatwave that has been plaguing Texas for the past couple of weeks has been brutal on all residents but has had a particularly dangerous effect on those inside the state’s prison system, where just 31 out of 98 facilities are completely air-conditioned.

Temperatures inside the prisons can rise to more than 110 degrees. Inmates have been relying on warm water, wet towels and fans pushing out hot air to keep them cool. Some have even flooded their cells with water from their sink toilets so that they could lay on wet concrete to feel some relief.

The issue has been a point of contention for years, with other states such as Alabama and Mississippi also not providing air-conditioning in many of their facilities.

This year, the Texas House proposed spending $545 million to install air-conditioning units in all of the Texas prisons, but the measure was struck down upon reaching the State Senate. Those who pushed for the investment argue that being “tough on crime” does not mean subjecting inmates to heat stroke, or worse.


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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has not attributed any of the 32 inmate deaths recorded this month to the heat, and has not since 2012. However, a 2022 study of deaths in Texas prisons found that at least 10 people a year may die from overheating.

Inmates are not the only ones suffering from a lack of air conditioning. Prison employees and guards have also reported poor conditions and excessive heat, and many have even threatened to quit.

Texas Prisons Community Advocates, a group dedicated to raising awareness for and supporting incarcerated individuals and their families, has condemned the struggles that inmates and employees are facing as a result of the Texas heat.

“The conditions of torturous heat within the Texas prisons have been cited as cruel and unusual punishment by several international human rights organizations,” stated the group on its website. Texas Prisons Community Advocates is currently raising money to buy inmates more cooling towels.

As the summer goes on, the heat in Texas is only predicted to get worse, and those in the state’s prison facilities will continue to be at risk of mental and physical complications.

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