Incarcerated People Face The Horrors of Deadly Heat

prison tower
Via flickr
Tremain Prioleau II
May 22, 2024

U.S. prisons are not just a hotbed of systemic violence. Many are just plain hot, and authorities don’t even try to cool them. Incarcerated people must fend for themselves to prevent death from heatstroke.

Between 1982 and 2020, almost 45% of detention facilities in the United States experienced a rise in the number of hazardous heat days. Southern facilities bear the worst of these conditions. That’s no coincidence.

These facilities are built in the least hospitable places in the nation. Most are found in places with annual rising temperatures, and the way prisons are built does little to prevent hazardous conditions.

The concrete architecture traps heat, making prisons harder to cool. In states like Texas and Florida, incarcerated people resort to cooling themselves any way they can, even flooding their cells with toilet water so they can lay in it. This isn’t simply neglect. This is the weaponization of the environment.

Torture takes many forms during incarceration, and the lack of heat control is one of the most overlooked. Being denied air conditioning and forced to be at the mercy of the heat is inhumane and is just another example of the horrors of incarceration.