Texas Inmates and the Heat

Written by Melissa Schmitt

August 23, 2015

We have been asking our adoptees in TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) how they are holding up under the Texas heat with no air conditioning. (Fortunately, this has not been a record-setting year for summer heat in Texas.) Here are some of their replies:

Stiles:

“No, I do not have a fan of my own, I have a cellmate who shares his fan with me. I have asked the property department to give me a loaner fan on an I-60 (standard request form in TDCJ). I have not gotten a response yet. We get cold water in an 8-gallon Igloo. There are 48 men to a pod so you can understand it does not last long. We are able to take showers at will but the water is very hot. Before I close this letter I would just like to say thank you and God bless you so much.”

“The fan thing is really to keep the state from lawsuits. That is why they allow it, because there is no a/c in any of the housing areas. And yes, I have a fan. It is one of the first things that I bought. This is Texas!!”

Estelle:

“Texas is the worst of all prison systems. And this is the most active death chamber on earth for the amount of people per-capita; it’s a more deadly state than even Iran or North Korea! As I write to you it is 115 degrees in my cage! I’ve already seen about ten guys being carted off this summer from heat exhaustion. Where I am is one of the roughest prisons in America. It’s hard to say because a man gets killed on all of them at least once a month. One week I watched three men get killed. […] Yes, I have broken the law, but I am human. Twenty years is a little much for a non-violent crime. Twenty years is a death sentence in these prisons.”

Holliday:

“The summer heat is exhausting. We have dorm fans but we still sweat all day long and they bring us five to ten gallons of cold water but with fifty of us in a dorm it’s gone in five minutes and we have to wait six to nine hours to get another one.”

Eastham:

“One of the guys smuggled back an empty chip bag full of ice from the chow hall, and I took it off his hands for a single stamp, so I have a couple of juices chilling in my big bowl. I love mangoes and all manner of fruit, so when I get out, I am going to fill up an entire shopping cart with fruit.”

Pack (from a former inmate):

“I suspect there will be more deaths before summer is over, and TDCJ will try to portray that as NOT heat related. And they will continue deliberately putting down misleading temperatures in the meaningless temperature logs by deliberately pointing the laser pointer at the draftiest points in the dorm and not at the tables or the floors or the area with direct light which are the hottest. They use a laser thermometer that is only accurate for a spot reading of a small area.

“I would get up bright and early in the morning so I could catch the ice water while it was still cold. Our boss in Laundry was good about sending us down to the kitchen to get our water jug refilled and so we always had water there at least. Wasn’t a very good setup but I had a friend who was an SSI (Staff Support Inmate, or dorm janitor) who would sometimes slip me a big chunk of ice that I would put in my mug.”

Regarding showers:

“Sometimes they would have super hot water only because some idiot rank wouldn’t turn the gas off (however we laundry folks knew where the lever for the hot water was and would just pull it to off).

“The only good cold showers I’d get were birdbath at the sink (pour water over yourself with your bowl) or when I got off work in the laundry.

Occasionally one of the intelligent CO’s (Correctional Officer) would think to turn the water heater for the showers off.”

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1 Comment

  1. mbee

    Thanks for the feedback – the post has been updated. Here is a list of definitions for TDCJ.

    Reply

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