In 2018, after a years-long lawsuit, the state of Texas installed air-conditioning at the Wallace Pack prison southeast of College Station, as part of a settlement with inmates. But within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system, there are just 29 facilities with air-conditioned beds.
TDCJ spokesman Jeremy Desel said the other facilities have some air-conditioning in designated respite areas.
“That includes having unit-based command centers that are activated during and National Weather Service deemed heat emergency,” he said.
The Lychner state jail in Humble is one of those facilities without air-conditioned beds. The facility 20 miles northeast of Houston can house more than 2,000 inmates.
“The Lychner state jail, it’s on our list as a partially air-conditioned unit, which means there are respite areas, education areas, chapel areas, those sorts of places that are air-conditioned,” Desel said.
This year, state lawmakers considered a bill calling for a study on reducing the air temperature in TDCJ facilities. The bill did not pass, but Texas Criminal Justice Coalition policy analyst Douglas Smith said it’s significant that it was heard by a committee.
“To my knowledge, there’s never been a hearing on air-conditioning or temperature standards inside of Texas prisons,” Smith said. “It’s something that people have talked about, but to my knowledge no one’s offered that bill and gotten that bill to a point where it can be debated in a committee.”
Smith said one obstacle to air-conditioning prisons is the high cost.
“I don’t see the Legislature ever willingly allocating those types of funds. There needs to be further success in the courts,” he said. “There needs to be something that forces the Legislature to act and go ahead and allocate those funds.”
As of the 2019 legislative session, the state now requires TDCJ to file an annual report to lawmakers on temperature complaints from inmates. They are not required to report the temperatures inside prison cells.
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