Hundreds of Thousands of Inmates Exposed to Dangerous Heat Levels

In a troubling new study, researchers have found that nearly 2 million incarcerated people across the United States are being exposed to potentially life-threatening combinations of heat and humidity. On average, these inmates experience around 100 days per year of these dangerous humid heat conditions.

The study revealed that a staggering 44 states do not provide universal air conditioning to inmates in their prisons and jails. The problem is particularly severe in southern states like Texas and Florida, which accounted for over half of the total dangerous heat exposures identified in the analysis.

Some facilities were found to subject inmates to humid heat conditions for up to a third of the entire year. The Starr County Jail in Rio Grande, Texas topped the list, with an average of 126 dangerously hot and humid days annually between 2016 and 2020.

“Exposure to excess heat and humidity can lead to deadly heat stroke and kidney disease from chronic dehydration, among other health issues, for incarcerated people in the United States,” said lead author Dr. Cascade Tuholske of Montana State University.

The researchers noted that jails and prisons are often purposely built in areas that experience higher heat and humidity levels compared to their surroundings. In Arizona, for example, inmates faced around 40 more days of dangerous humid heat per year than the rest of the state on average.

“Dangerous heat impacting incarcerated people has been largely ignored, in part due to perceptions that their physical suffering is justified,” commented Dr. Robbie M. Parks of Columbia University. “Laws mandating safe temperature ranges, enhanced social and physical infrastructure, and focused health system interventions could mitigate the problem.”

With climate change increasing heat extremes, the study underscores an urgent need to address inmate living conditions and prevent serious illness or deaths due to excessive heat exposure behind bars.

#PrisonReform #ClimateChange #HumanRights

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