Extreme Heat has become a Political Weapon

Extreme heat raises health, safety, and equity issues for the 2 million individuals incarcerated in U.S. prisons. Due to their physical confinement, social isolation, high rates of chronic mental and physical illnesses, and an overall lack of concern for their wellbeing, incarcerated people are at high risk for heat related mortality and morbidity.

At least 44 states do not universally provide air conditioning in prison facilities even though it is clear that air conditioning is no longer a luxury item; climate change has made air conditioning a necessity for survival. In Texas, where two thirds of prisons do not have air conditioning in living areas and summer temperatures are routinely in the triple digits, inside temperatures can easily exceed 110 F, which is dangerous for human survival. Addressing the gravity of this situation and the state’s continued failure to air condition prison facilities, Carl Sherman, Texas State Representative observed: “We’ve got a crisis, and it’s a humanity crisis.”

As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of extreme heat, there is great urgency as well as a moral imperative to improve infrastructure and heat mitigation interventions in prisons. Extreme heat is a public health issue, not grounds for sanctions or punitive and retaliatory actions.

Help build awareness for policy change.