Don’t Let Dangerous Drinking Water Sicken Inmates

Target: Colette S. Peters, Director of Federal Bureau of Prisons

Goal: Upgrade quality of drinking water in America’s prisons.

Forever chemicals, disease-causing bacteria, petroleum, radioactive gas, lead, insecticides, coal ash, sewage, rat droppings, and arsenic: any of these highly toxic substances can cause lifelong, severe health consequences. Every American is supposed to be safeguarded from such contamination via the Safe Drinking Water Act. Yet for the nation’s incarcerated—adults and juveniles alike—exposure to all of these toxins is a daily reality.

Just as the country’s leaders placed more restrictions on dangerous forever chemicals, a recent study found inordinately high levels of the substances in the drinking water of nearly half of the thousands of prisons in America. Residents of both prisons and juvenile detention facilities often report dirty, foul-smelling tap water as the norm. Since dehydration and cut-off water supplies in prisons are seemingly commonplace, inmates are forced to drink this questionable water in order to survive. Their health usually suffers as a result, as inmates face everything from blinding migraine headaches to long-term gastrointestinal issues. Many centers for incarceration are constructed near or even on areas vulnerable to industrial or other types of pollution and toxicity, which only fuels the problem. Crumbling infrastructure is another major driver of the unhealthy environments.

The organization that oversees the nation’s incarceration facilities is apparently not taking the steps needed to rectify these serious threats to public health. Sign the petition below to demand more investment in safe and clean drinking water for every human being.


Dear Director Peters,

Over one million incarcerated inmates, including tens of thousands of youth, are exposed to highly toxic forever chemicals via prisoned drinking water, according to a disturbing new study. A lack of testing on these facilities nationwide means the numbers could be much higher, as indicated by anecdotal evidence of incarcerated individuals dealing with cloudy, smelly, and residue-laden water on a regular basis. Dehumanizing the incarcerated by denying them access to a crucial substance guaranteed every American under the Safe Drinking Water Act is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

Please request more funds to enact the reforms necessary to achieve clean and healthy drinking water for America’s incarcerated. And take action on infrastructure repairs, alternative construction sites, cleanup, and more to stop the hidden public health crisis unfolding across the nation.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Abdul Ocid

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