Inside prison in the heat
Recent heat spikes are making life harder for those incarcerated and working in the state's prisons, as the four inmate testimonials below show.
They have been edited for length and clarity and to protect the writers' identities.
Hey, starting a movement of free speech against cells being too hot in heat advisories. I call it "#I can't breathe cause our cell is too hot."
A lot of inmates are super mad and pissed off because our cell are hot boxes with no air flow or breeze coming through. Inmates crack their doors because it's the only way to get a breeze in your room or air flow.
Some guards are very caring and will let this happen, but others will enforce the closed door policy because their hand was forced and say if doors aren't closed, turning cells into hot boxes, you will get a ticket.
I feel very bad for the elderly and people with health problems. They are the ones that suffer the most. Inmates have had heat exhaustion and I'm sure heat stroke here. The ambulance comes here a lot.
Inmates have complained and were told nothing will be done about it. As some staff sit back and enjoy air-conditioning in their offices, inmates suffer from heat exhaustion in their rooms. I see a HUGE lawsuit coming when someone falls out. Inmates and staff are both sick of nothing being done.
There's not good air flow on the units, either. One person told me today that the warden here said its too expensive to fix the problem to bring air flow to the cells. So now inmates suffer in their cells.
Who's responsible if someone falls out in their cell from the heat because nothing was done? It's like leaving someone in a locked car to fry – it's just not right. I'm just sitting in my cell writing a letter doing nothing. I get soaked in sweat just sitting there. I hope this goes to the media, Madison, higher ups, news stations.
This is inhumane and torture punishment. Ask everyone to share their stories about being hot boxed in their cell and what they did to get change.
"It's like leaving someone in a locked car to fry – it's just not right."
We have to wear sweatpants for 7½ hrs a day. All of the previous week (July 7 to July 10) has been horrendous.
At 7 a.m. the outside temp would be 67°F; however, once in the building the temp on thermometer stated 90°F. There are box fans and a couple industrial (36" fans) none of which really do anything unless you are directly in front of them. Most of the working spaces you would sweat just standing still. On top of this we are required to wear a fabric mask for the entire 7½hrs. These masks do not breathe well. They offer us ice and water to keep cool; however, in that kind of heat it lasts maybe 10 minutes.
We do get three breaks a day; two 10 minute and one 15 minutes. I myself have developed a sweat rash that covered 80% of my back from the chair I sit in. We have asked for the ability to wear shorts during these times. In response we were told that wearing shorts is unprofessional for a work place. This has become a common excuse throughout the last 14 years that I have been locked up; we must wear out shirts tucked in to look professional at all times.
Mostly every day, there is a 'Heat Advisory' in effect which shuts down most movement such as work, recreation, track (any exercise/cardio) and courtyard activities. I can't believe that we are locked into our rooms, especially when there is a legitimate heat index.
We have separate day room times for the upper and lower tiers. Recreation also. When it is not our time out we are locked into our cells. This is quarantine procedure. The heat is oppressive and air does not get into the cell and circulate.
The emergency call buttons are rarely answered, which creates a severe security risk. They take on average close to 11-13 minutes roughly if at all. There are many older people on the unit and they are at risk of heat stroke, fatal heart attacks and seizures.
My cellmate is hypoglycemic and needs to go to HSU (health services unit) four times a day. Rarely does he get out of the cell on time. Therefore he has been denied essential medical care. There are hundreds of cases like this and they need to be brought into the light. The cell doors do not need to be double locked. We should be able to push the release button and exit if we so choose. This is a medium security facility. These actions are not necessary.
(Department of Corrections) Secretary Kevin Carr needs to be made aware of these indiscretions. (Division of Adult Institutions Administrator) Makda Fessahaye doesn't seem to be too concerned with these actions either. I am hoping that by me speaking out that this will start a conversation of the utmost importance. Peoples' LIVES are literally and figuratively at stake and hang in the balance.
I wanted to make the community aware of the living conditions here. We are only allowed cell cleaning once a week on Saturdays and for only 10 minutes per cell and we get timed or get a conduct report.
The cleaning supplies they have consist of generic windex and watered-down disinfectant cleaner and one mop bucket, which each cell uses and water doesn't get changed, nor does the mop head. Very unsanitary.
It is extremely hot in the unit – no air-conditioning, no fans on the tiers, no circulation at all and when the sun is beaming through the window we get conduct reports if we cover the windows up to stop the burning of the sun.
They also only allow us to have three small 8-oz cups a day for ice water. They won't open doors or traps to get some air. A couple inmates on my unit has had some seizures due to how hot it is. This is inhuman to make us suffer like this.
Another note – when it's very hot outside they won't let us use the gym. We have outside rec which is ridiculously hot and humid but they allow the barracks to use gym everyday for multiple hours because they are minimum custody which is bullshit they shouldn't even be allowed on the same grounds as us max inmates.
The crazy part Is (some areas of the prison) have air-conditioning so we don't understand why we can't get some type of air flow. They waiting to several people to die, I guess.
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