Prevent Heat Related Deaths in Prisons

Holliday Unit in Huntsville

Target: Executive Director of Texas Criminal Justice Department Brad Livingston

Goal: Regulate temperatures in state prison to prevent heat related deaths

A new study found that temperatures within Texas prisons violated international human rights standards, jeopardizing the health of both inmates and the prison staff. Heat related deaths have been tracked since 2011, and they have not been confined to inmates — the problem affects the staff as well. Sign this petition and demand that temperatures be regulated in Texas prisons to prevent these deaths.

The study cited a Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) temperature log that showed a heat index of 165 degrees Fahrenheit at 10:30 A.M. in a Dallas facility. The heat index also takes into account temperature and humidity, and the National Weather Service provides alerts when the heat index is expected to exceed 150 degrees for two consecutive days or more. Even with this information, the facilities are still scorching hot.

In 2007, at least fourteen inmates died from the extreme heat in nine different TDCJ prisons. These deaths could have been prevented if the facilities had taken the necessary precautions. With at least 150,000 people incarcerated in TDCJ prisons, these people are at risk because of the extreme heat. Most facilities are not equipped to deal with these problems and little improvement has been made to solve these problems. And in 2012, 92 correctional officers suffered heat related injuries or illnesses.

Everyone in Texas suffers from the extreme heat, but regular citizens can turn on their air conditioning. Inmates can’t do this, and neither can the prison staff. Leaving prisoners to suffer from the heat and die from it also violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishments. The prisons need to install air conditioning to keep housing temperatures below 85 degrees and provide easy access to water and ice for both inmates and staff. Sign this petition and urge the executive director of TDCJ to make these changes immediately.


Dear Director Brad Livingston,

I am writing to express my disbelief at the care Texas inmates receive during summer time. Texas summers are sweltering hot and many Texans escape the heat through air conditioned rooms or at the pool. Prison inmates can’t do this and their facilities are not equipped to handle the heat. Some of these inmates – and your correctional officers – have died from the heat. Their deaths could have been prevented if your facilities were better equipped.

I demand that you install air conditioning in these facilities to keep temperatures below 85 degrees Fahrenheit. I also demand that you provide easy access for water and ice in the event that air conditioning is not enough to keep these prisoners comfortable. Leaving prisons and correctional officers to deal with the heat is a cruel and unusual punishment. Please improve your facilities for the betterment of your staff and inmates.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Prison Unit via Wikimedia

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