Monday, July 30, 2012

Texas court rules heat is cruel and usual punishment for TDCJ inmates as the agency deals with employee heat illness issues as well

By Doug Glass, Backgate Website

A Texas courts ruling that the Texas heat and the lack of prison air conditioning cannot be considered cruel and unusual punishment for those incarcerated was overturned this week by a Texas appeals court. The debate over the lack of air-conditioning in the prison system has intensified in recent weeks, after lawyers from the nonprofit Texas Civil Rights Project sued the agency in federal court over one of the inmate deaths from last summer. They also plan to file additional wrongful-death lawsuits.

The danger doesn't just include the inmate population either.  At least 17 prison employees and inmates were treated for heat-related illnesses from June 25 through July 6, according to agency documents. Many of them had been indoors at the time they reported feeling ill. TDCJ's own documentation shows that interior prison temperature readings of between 100 to 104 degrees can be considered typical in the Texas summer heat. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards, who regulates and oversees all Texas county jails, helped impose state law requiring county jails to maintain temperature levels between 65 and 85 degrees in occupied areas. But the law applies only to county jails, not to state prisons.

The issue has become viral online, and a recent article in the New York Times  detailed how at the Darrington Unit near Rosharon on June 25, a 56-year-old corrections officer fainted in a supervisor’s office and was taken to a hospital. Heat exhaustion was diagnosed. These instances ring true and often all over the state. Many Texas prison units with construction dating back over 100 years were surely not constructed up to today's standards. For us it's not an issue of inmate safety, it's about the safety of the already overworked and poorly treated staff that keep the units operating at full speed no matter what the weather. Time will tell how the lawsuits will affect the outcome of the subject. More to come..


  1. Yes I agree.I have a son who is an inmate.His first time to be incarcerated for a non violent crime. The temps inside are over the 100s.Being a tax paying citizen who has never been in trouble this is ridiculous.

    1. This is not a website for offender families. We are concerned with the employee work environment. Not the people who committed a crime to get there.

    2. To the individual above. What about the officers who are actually working in the heat in full uniform while the inmates sit and watch tv in the dayroom wearing shorts. What about some compassion for the officers who did not commit any crime but yet are worse off then the inmates. What the hell is wrong with you people.

  2. Oh very sorry I did not realize this website is an employee only.

    1. Feel free to read and learn, but please. No offender family or ex-offender comment posting. Thanks!

  3. Maybe you should create a way on this site so that ONLY employees can add comments! Sincenit is not secure, I will say this, since when have the citizens of Texas and the United States not been able to express their opinions? If you think that all the people that are incaerated should be treated as less than human I want to be there the day that you have to answer to Almighty God.....Not all the inmates deserve to be there.........And they certainly do not deserve to be treated kas non humans......We are all Gods children....I believe.....maybe you do too unless you are atheist! So, yes, I will add comments as I chose!

    A concerned Christian and mother

    1. AccussedSnitchGP1/1August 2, 2012 at 1:09 AM

      Well Apparently a Jury or Judge believed they "DESERVE" to be there otherwise they Would have received "probation" and would be out Walking the Street Gainfully Employed Paying Fines and Restitution

    2. That's right Anonymous. Juries and Judges, especially in Texas, make mistakes all the time. No one deserves this heat-oriented punishment so corporations or the state can make/save money. The US loves to torture though, so guess changes will come slowly, if at all.

    3. Incarceration IS the punishment. Incineration is a death sentence. TDCJ has difficulty differentiating the two.

    4. They may not deserve to be treated as less than human but many act as though they are less than human

  4. I do not believe the article is about if they should be in prison or not.The article is about the higher court over ruling that in fact it is cruel and unusual punishment ( the extreme heat). If you read the ruling the courts are speaking of the inmates. Freedom of speech, means taxpayers who pay the salaries of state employees have a right to disagree and voice that opinion.nIf this site is only for employees it should not state and criminal justice news.

  5. I agree, It is hot! It was 100* in the chow hall yesterday. How hot was it for our men and women over seas yesterday?

  6. There are websites designed and set up for use by offender families. This just doesn't happen to be one of them. It's a privately funded, employee based site where employees can go to see whats happening within the agency they work for, and how legislation and other criminal justice issues affect them. We are in NO WAY connected to the official TDCJ website, their views, or ideas. As a matter of fact most of us firmly disagree with the direction of the agency at this point. While there is no intention to offend those here reading up on TDCJ news that may have family members locked up, this is also not the arena for debate on those issues as that's not our purpose. TDCJ rules prohibit current employees from associating with ex-offenders or offender families. We have no filters or processes that can keep you out of the website,and do not intend to, but we will delete any posts that reflect a connection to offenders or offender families. We understand that many families out there have or have had family members that are or have been incarcerated. Feel free to browse, read up on the news, or just get an idea of what the staff have to deal with on a daily basis. But do not use this site as a political soap box for offender rights.

  7. It was 95 on our unit last night at 2300. No telling how warm it was on the buildings; not to mention several of our building control pickets have broken A/Cs. We can barely keep the free world people in medical and admin cool, much less the offenders right now.

  8. I think that the Backgate should monitor and not let these offenders families comment on this page. They do have their own web sites. These inmates are the worst of the worst. They violated the laws and they put themselves in prison. I know its hot bacause i am a CO. Besides the poor darlings do get ICE water instead of tap water everyday, they strip down to their boxers in their cells and they do have fans. They stay much cooler then the officers.

  9. I don't think officers should be subjected to a heat index of 125 degrees. While I don't think offenders should be housed in 75 degrees, when the heat index gets into the scientifically-dangerous extreme range, it's just a fact that the temperature needs to come down to almost-as-hot-as-hell-but-not-hotter. There are going to be examples of inmates who cannot physically withstand it and there are going to be examples of offenders who don't fall into worst of the worst, and offenders' rights advocates will spotlight them to get new rulings from court.

  10. I think it's wrong that the inmates can't work when the temp is too high but come hell or high water they are going to get recreation and the officer has to be out in the heat. It's too hot to work but they can sure play basketball all day. Plus we are short and have to pull a catagory one position to put on a catagory two position rec yard post.

  11. policy has always been to make sure that all Cat-1 positions are manned and that if not, they unit was actually able to lock down to ensure that the safety and security needs are met. This is a farce. The regional directors and wardens do not want to make waves and want to show that they can do more, with less, so rec yards are manned, security is light just to show that the numbers are OK. Since the policy has come out I have yet to see any region 6 units in the Abilene area actually lock down and utilize the policy CORRECTLY. Not saying that Rec isn't cancelled etc from day to day. But if they are able, Ive seen Sgt's man the rec yards. Just saying.

  12. Seashores is what it is. If you don't like the surroundings, don't commit a felony in Texas. IF you don't like the surroundings, don't hire on w/TDCJ. I hope we don't install a/c. The inmate population have way to many rights as it is. A/C should not be one of them. It is getting to the point were coming to the penitentiary is more comfortable than living in the free world for the every day thug. If it wasn't, the felons would have changed their ways.
    This is a tough job, inside and out. We didn't tell ANYONE that it was cool/warm or cozy here prior to hiring on or committing a felony.
    If you don't like it, become a law abiding tax paying citizen and stay the hell out. If you don't like your job, grow a set, toughen up or find another job.

  13. Ya know I think all of you should suck it up and stop whining. Yea there should be a/c on all tdcj units and the officers wont be so grippy and less fights with the offender population. It would be a win win situation for officers and offender.Just agree to disagree.

  14. I like the comment from the anonymous "Seashores says". Prison = punishment. I bet most, if not all, of the offenders incarcerated would last 2 seconds in a Third-World Prison. My gosh, they eat BETTER than a lot of families that are law-abiding and truly struggling to make-ends-meet. Not to mention they get CAKE every Wednesday; what a FARCE!

  15. I wonder when the " Sentence Imposed" ... Became ( RUDE CO's, Intolerable conditions, Beatings, Rape, Theft of property, Staff inflicted Mental and physical harm and of all things TERRIBLE BELOW STANDARD MEDICAL CARE! ).... Ive been a prisoner, but now Im back to being a regular tax paying citizen.. It is inhumane for CO's which falls back on the offenders, It is inhumane on offenders, which falls back on CO's... Cant we have compassion for every one as a whole? I guess you guys won't know how it effects everyone until you have someone you love fall victim... TRUE FACTS! Hateful!

    1. First of all, this forum is for Corrections Officers only. But since you are an ex-offender, it's obvious that you don't follow rules. And that's a TRUE fact. Please move along....and go pay your taxes.

  16. I lived on gib and yes saw officers attack asshole inmates who were disrespectful and deserved it I never had a problem with any c.o. on any unit get pissed if you want that an ex con posted here,but were not all bad ppl some of us guys were drug addicts who made mistakes did our time went home and continued with life, alot of c.o's will admit they could've gotten caught and sent to prison at some point in time. My experience while doing time was that if you dont act like a damn fool and masterbate in front of ya'll, spit at you,cuss and threaten you, then you treat us like humans.

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  18. Speaking as a former employee all of your comments are true and have merit but I hate to be the bearer of bad news when I say TDCJ don't give a damn, that's why nothing has changed. Too many political bed buddies they have on their side to counter the blows of their incompetence. The Wardens are the blame for this mess because they lead by no example and let's face it! you are reflection of your leader. These people thrive off each other and it is nearly impossible to get a fair impartial mediation from the snake pit. So the inmates haven't got much of a chance when going up against the power structure. I was intrigue with how unfair they treat you as a new boot and when they get rid of you in the most deceptive way they have the nerve to ask you to fill out a! that's like a rapist asking you was it as satisfying for you as it was for me. The biggest poor excuse for a jail is Pam Lynchner in Humble the worse place to work because you will learn bad habits from the start and if you don't learn them, well you are unexpectedly unemployed.

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  24. Poor babies.....

    I work SEG 90% of the time, so add wearing a thrust vest and running stairs all day, every day, while the inmates sit in their somewhat air conditioned cells all day to my misery. I don't have any sympathy for them. They couldn't behave in civilized society, so they were locked up. THEN, they couldn't behave in a prison environment, so they were locked up again, having been recognized as the worst of the worst on the unit. Hell is going to be hot, too. They should consider this an opportunity to get acclimated.

  25. whining vagina liberal bastards your little freak bastard offspring violated the laws they violated other persons rights prison is punishment that is paid .their rights are taken because they violated other people's rights.If you had raised your off spring correctly they wouldn't be here.6 years of working ad-seg wearing a 20 pound thrust vest in a 112 degree building wrestling with pepper spray in a small cell because some offender likes to chunk fecal matter at the medical staff.The death penalty needs to be applied for lesser crimes and we don't need AC if at 52 I can take it so can your mutated brain dead offspring.Just off working a double with three uses of force BITE ME!

  26. WOW I wonder where the stable humans are. Air Conditioner in the Prison is a great idea. It will help deter use of force and prevent heat related illness. Prisoners are being punished by the time they are sent to prison. Their confinement is supposed to be their punishment.