Texas prison hogs live better than guards, inmates.
While inmates and correction officers swelter in temperatures as high as 120 degrees in Texas prisons without air conditioning, the prison system is getting six new pig barns with a “climate-controlled environment” to ensure the hogs don’t overheat.
Scott Medlock, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project who is suing the prison system over several heat-related deaths, told the Austin American Statesman “It is outrageous that [Texas Department of Criminal Justice]TDCJ would prioritize the safety of pigs raised for slaughter over the lives of human beings. TDCJ has literally made the decision that protecting its bacon is more important than protecting human lives.”
“Right now, there’s just fans blowing around very hot air — if there’s fans at all,” he said. “There’s no misters. There’s no exhaust air systems. It’s incredibly hot and dangerous, especially when you consider the officers and inmates who are on heat-sensitive medication.”
In the past six years, sweltering heat in Texas prisons has been blamed for at least 14 deaths.
Lance Lowry, president of AFSCME Local 3807, called for Texas prisons to get the same “climate-controlled environment” as the hog barns.
AG Holder has a bold new prison reform plan, but we must focus on states
In a bold step towards reforming the federal prison system, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a comprehensive prison reform package that outlines several steps the Justice Department will take to reduce unnecessarily large federal prison population. In a speech to the American Bar Association Holder stated “It is clear that “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no truly good law enforcement reason.” He added “We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.”
According to an NYT op-ed by the ACLU, “for lasting national impact we need to look at the states, where most criminal defendants are sentenced.” 86% of America’s 1.6 million prisoners are in state, not federal, prisons. These facilities will not be affected by Holder’s bold action.
Court Records Show CCA Under-staffing Led to Shocking Levels of Violence
Earlier this month, a federal judge unsealed a torrent of court documents that revealed the nation’s largest prison privatizer, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) had understaffed the Idaho Correction Center (ICC) at unsafe levels, having falsified nearly 5,000 staff hours. The under-staffing led to violence levels at ICC that were four times higher than at the states seven publicly owned and operated prisons combined. Read more about this case from the Private Corrections Institute.
New opportunities to close private prisons
Even as crime rates have declined in recent years, America still incarcerates more people than any other country. The federal prison population alone has grown by almost 800 percent since 1980.
Mandatory minimum sentencing laws and other so-called “strong on crime” initiatives have filled Federal and State prisons leading to overcrowding and poor living conditions for inmates and working conditions for correctional officers.
The good news is that prison populations declined in 2012 for the third year in a row. Declining prison populations means Federal and State correctional agencies can and should start closing private prisons. Next year, the Public Safety and Justice Campaign will launch a campaign to urge states to end private prison contracts as crime rates drop.