Texas weather is breaking records with the June 2012 heat wave; temperatures are reaching well over 100 degrees in most of the state. The increase in electrical power usage is spiking, too, as air conditioning usage increases: there’s talk of Texas having to implement brown-outs to conserve power if this keeps up.
Right now, those brown outs are not a concern of the Texas prison system: Texas prisons don’t have air conditioning. And that’s a big, big problem in this state because it’s killing people in a really horrible way.
Wrongful Death Suit Filed On Behalf of Man Who Died From Heat Stroke in Hutchins County Jail
Larry Gene McCollum, 58, died last July from injuries his body sustained after being forced to stay in the Hutchins County Jail without air conditioning during the sweltering Texas heat. According to the news reports, McCollum had a body temperature of 109 degrees by the time they got him to the hospital. Because of some procedural rigamarole, McCollum had no fan to help with the heat there at the Hutchins County Jail and he had no cup to use to drink water. (He was serving a short term for forgery.)
That’s right: the prisoners in Texas jails don’t get a cup to use to drink water. They have to buy their own cups. Same thing for the fans. Not provided by the State of Texas. Since McCollum didn’t have his proper identification issued to him yet, he had to set there in the extreme heat and just deal with it.
Mr. McCollum lasted three days. Then he passed out from the heat, and died at the hospital six days later. The autopsy shows living in the extreme heat is the cause of this man’s death.
Other Men Have Died From Heat Exposure in Texas Jails and Prisons: It’s a Big Problem Here
The news media have begun investigating what is going on here in Texas, and the New York Times is reporting that not long after Mr. McCollum passed away, three more men died from heat exposure (hyperthermia, heat stroke) in the following three week period. One of these heat victims, an inmate also found passed out in his cell (this one over in Palestine’s prison), had a body temperature of 108 degrees at the hospital … this was his body temperature at three o’clock in the morning. Think about that: isn’t that early morning usually the coolest part of the summer day?
Federal Case Already Before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
The same organization that has just filed a lawsuit on behalf of Larry Gene McCullom has just finished oral arguments before the federal appellate court over in New Orleans on its 2008 lawsuit that was filed against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on behalf of Texan Eugene Blackmon.
That federal court will be deciding issues of heat in Texas jails and prisons soon, as Mr. Blackmon has sued for heat exposure during his three year stint down in Beeville’s Texas prison facility. Blackmon did not die, luckily, but he alleged that the temperature in his prison cell reached 130 degrees in the summertime and that he suffered ailments because of this.
130 degrees… body temperature at 109 degrees.
It’s true that electricity costs money and there are lots of folk that don’t want to pay for inmates to get AC. However, people are dying here and while Texas has a death penalty, it’s not just to have these men and women suffering in this way.
Remember that McCollum had nothing to drink water from and no fan to even more the air around him.
Surely there’s a way to get containers so these people can drink some water on a hot day? If nothing more????