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UT Law Clinic Study Shows Dangerous Conditions In Texas' Sweltering Prisons

Ryan E. Poppe
TPR News
Dr. Ariel Dulitsky, director of the Human Rights Clinic at the UT School of Law.

The Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law released a report that shows the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is violating prisoners' human and constitutional rights by exposing them to high temperatures.

The center compiled data from 2007 -2014, and found that heat played a direct role in the deaths of 14 inmates. Dr. Ariel Dulitsky, is the clinic’s director, said many of the correctional facilities in Texas don't include air conditioning, and the heat index during the summer can reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We believe the main step that should be taken by TDCJ is providing air conditioning units in all inmate housing areas as soon as possible,” Dulitsky said.

Credit Ryan E. Poppe / TPR News
TPR News
Lance Lowery, president of the Texas Correctional Officers Union.

But it isn’t just the prison population that is at risk. Lance Lowery, the head of the Texas Correctional Officer’s Union, said that the inmates with mental illness will stop taking their psychotropic medication because it makes them more sensitive to the heat.

"We will experience more crisis management incidents and more assaults on our staff and this is a great concern for us because we would like to reduce our officers from getting hurt, either from the heat or from the assaults," Lowery said.

He said as an officer working inside the prison, it feels like you are on fire and the temperature doesn’t start to drop until about 3 a.m. The Human Rights Clinic plans to submit their report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture by the end of this summer.  

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.