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Temperatures at the Eastham Unit where Skinner is incarcerated consistently topped degrees in late July, according to state data. At some other prisons and state jails, like the one in Dallas, it was even hotter. And this year, the state confirmed that dozens of inmates and staff, more than in , got sick from the heat.


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Now, as Texas braces for what could be a brutally cold winter , inmates are suing, demanding the state protect them from the elements. Officials say it is difficult, and unnecessary, to get temperature readings inside.

Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony, filed the suits, claiming that the conditions they face amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Temperatures at Coffield are frigid in winter, convicted murderer Artis Armour , 64, alleges in his suit , and can top degrees in the summer.

Unpaid Labor in Texas Prisons Is Modern-Day Slavery

Johnny Lee Walker, 42, who's serving 40 years for aggravated robbery , described it this way : "On this Coffield Unit, it is like being in an oven during the hot summer month [sic] and being in a freezer during the winter months. According to hourly heat readings The News received through public records requests , the outdoor temperature at Eastham reached degrees on July At Hutchins State Jail, the only state-run facility in Dallas, outdoor temperatures also topped out at degrees that same afternoon. But it felt like The number of heat-related illnesses behind bars increased this year by nearly 13 percent, according to information provided by the state.

No one has died of heatstroke in years, the Department of Criminal Justice says, but 79 people became ill between January and October. Texas has long fought allegations that its prisons are too hot.

Unpaid Labor in Texas Prisons Is Modern-Day Slavery

At least 23 people have died behind bars from extreme temperatures since , including at least one at Hutchins in Dallas , and the state settled eight wrongful-death lawsuits this year filed by inmates' families. Also this year, the state agreed to install air conditioning at the Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota, where elderly and ill inmates successfully waged a yearslong class-action lawsuit.

The inmates at Coffield and Eastham are demanding a similar remedy. All three men claim that prison officials know the conditions put inmates at risk and are turning a blind eye to the danger. To act with "deliberate indifference," Paxton argued, they would have to know for a fact that "a substantial risk of serious harm exists" and still choose not to act.

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The problem is, there is no definitive way to tell how hot it is inside prisoners' cells. Now, the Department of Criminal Justice confirms it doesn't measure the temperature inside any of its jails or prisons.


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The one exception is the Pack Unit, where, as a result of the court settlement, the state has agreed to keep the indoor temperature at 88 degrees or lower during the summer months. During last year's heat wave, they put in place protocols that required inmates to be given extra water , more access to cool showers and a break from work when it gets too hot. Hodge Unit in Rusk, which houses developmentally disabled prisoners.

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The measurements were made inside multiple inmate dormitories, as well as outdoors. Additionally, a March incident in Georgia illustrates why social media may be an embarrassing problem for prison officials. In that case, a year-old prisoner was the target of a gang beating, and a photo of him being held on a leash by gang members was posted online before prison officials were aware of his injuries. Facebook does not allow third parties to maintain accounts. He cited a case in which a U.

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District Court invalidated as unconstitutional an Arizona law that prohibited prisoners from accessing the Internet through a third party. TDCJ officials could establish rules making the accounts private except for approved contacts, and monitor them and regulate their content.


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Positive communications that support goals of reintegration and maintenance of healthy relationships should be encouraged while negative interactions must be identified and stopped. Sources: www.

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