Friday, July 05, 2019

'People are in danger': the prisoners feeling the effects of US climate crisis

Oliver Milman in New York
Tue 2 Jul 2019 01.00 EDT

Rodney Adams had a job hauling luggage for airlines before bereavements and a back injury took their toll and he was convicted of drink driving in 2012. Just two days after his arrival at the Gurney unit in eastern Texas, Adams had a seizure and collapsed in the August heat. His body temperature was nearly 110F (43.3C).

His daughter, Ashley Frantom, was 38 weeks pregnant and slumbering when the call came from a prison chaplain to inform her that Adams was in hospital.

Frantom drove three hours in the middle of the night to find her father shackled to a hospital bed. “We stayed in the hospital all night and then had to make the call in the morning to take him off life support,” she said. “I don’t think prisoners are treated like humans in this state. If there was air conditioning in that prison, my dad would be alive, out of jail and rebuilding his life right now.”

Adams’s autopsy found he died of hyperthermia – excessive body temperature – one of at least 23 prisoners to die in Texas this way since 1998. Prisons that bake dangerously in the heat are dotted across the American south but are now found even in cooler states such as Wisconsin, with experts warning that inmates face increasingly deadly risks as global temperatures rise.


Prison guards have reported that suicide attempts among prisoners rise during the hotter summer months. “I don’t have love for these people,” said Lance Lowry, who heads the state prison guards union, in reference to inmates, “[but] the incarceration is their punishment, not cooking them to death.”


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