Prisoners are dying needlessly in the southern heat

On Behalf of | Oct 27, 2017 | Wrongful Death

States like Mississippi, Texas, Arizona and more all have one thing in common: scorching hot summers.

Climate change has made the summers even longer and hotter — and while the news warns elderly people to get inside with air conditioning and churches open their doors to the homeless to get them out of the heat before they suffer strokes, there’s an underclass of citizens that are left to literally cook inside concrete walls: the prisoners in local and state jails.

Perhaps it will shock no one that there are no figures that reveal just how many prisoners die or suffer irreversible medical damage from the sweltering summer heat.

However, there are stories every year that come out telling of prisoners flooding their own cells to try to cool down or dying because the medications they’re on won’t let them sweat while temperatures in the older prisons — built before air conditioning was even a thing — climb into the triple digits every day.

Keep in mind that these prisoners who are suffering aren’t just the convicted — many are people simply too poor to afford bail while awaiting their trial. Others are people jailed for minor offenses like drunk and disorderly conduct — certainly nothing they deserve to die a sweltering, miserable death over.

Also affected are pregnant prisoners who are carrying children that are innocent of any wrongdoing. And there also exists a growing body of mentally ill prisoners — people who get into trouble because they can’t control their mental illness and there’s nowhere to put them except jail. There are also a large number of geriatric prisoners — men and women of advanced age who are particularly susceptible to the effects of heat.

Staff members are also suffering the debilitating effects of the heat inside these prisons and developing medical problems as well.

Many of these prisons were built when heat waves were rare, but experts in weather and climate change say it is only going to get worse. If someone closely related to you dies due to excessive heat exposure that didn’t take into account the deceased’s overall health, age, medications or other relevant factors, it is important to pursue a potential wrongful death claim against the prison. It may take several lawsuits before officials finally decide to make enough changes.

Source: The Marshall Project, ““Cooking Them to Death”: The Lethal Toll of Hot Prisons,” Maurice Chammah, Oct. 11, 2017

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