Inmate family members cite poor insulation, broken windows and nonfunctioning heaters. Being cold is something inmates and guards regularly endure in a prison system where buildings date back to the 1800s,
More than 30 Texas prisons had heating issues during a cold snap that brought freezing temperatures to much of the state this week, inmate family members tell the Texas Tribune. The Texas Inmate Families Association compiled reports by inmates’ relatives that blamed poor insulation, broken windows and nonfunctioning heaters for the cold conditions in the facilities. Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Robert Hurst said Wednesday that all prison units were “operating with adequate heating.” Several of the advocacy group’s members reported that prison officials had fixed broken heaters at their loved ones’ facilities, but many continued to report problems with prison heating Wednesday. Two women told The Texas Tribune that relatives had been without heat for more than a month at the Allred Unit near Wichita Falls.
The women said they were told by inmates and prison officials the prison was waiting on parts to fix a broken heater. Both said guards worked in hats, gloves and heavy jackets. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed on Tuesday that 37 inmates in solitary confinement had been refusing meals since Christmas. A spokesman said the prisoners complained of various issues like food portions, recreation time and temperature. “There’s a lot of attention on the hunger strike, but at the same time there are so many people who are so cold in the prisons for one reason or another,” said Jennifer Erschabek of the family association. Being cold is something inmates and guards regularly endure in a prison system where buildings date back to the 1800s, said Cheri Siegelin of the Texas Correctional Employees Union. “The fact remains that a lot of the infrastructure of a lot of these prisons are old. Some of them are not meant to be in operation as long as they have been,” she said.