(Todd A. Smith)
Cruel and unusual punishment does not even describe surviving a Texas prison, without adequate air conditioning, during a historically brutal heatwave.
Although prisons have already had a cruel reputation when it comes to its treatment of Black and Brown inmates, treating people worse than one would treat an animal does not create a deterrent to crime, or even keep inmates in their “place.”
Such conditions just make a so-called civilized people look ridiculously uncivilized, especially considering Texas has a surplus of money, which could be used in many ways, including making prisons more humane.
Ryan Chandler of KXAN reported, “In Texas’ state jails, the inmates are sentenced to just two years or less. But every summer, former inmate Maggie Luna remembers, the women inside worried their short sentences may take their life…
“The jail is one of the 70% of units within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that do not have full air conditioning. As much as Texas braces through record-setting triple digit temperatures, current and former inmates are describing dangerous and disturbing conditions in their cell.”
Luna said, “All of these women that were suffering with me had not a lot of time, and they feared that they were getting death sentences. Several times I told my mom, ‘I hope I make it out of here.’”
She added, “It is suffocating. It’s terrifying just to feel like you’re cooking. I remember asking my bunkie, ‘do you think our brains are frying?’”
Luna remembered, “Some days, we wouldn’t have water. I saw a lot of women have seizures because of the heat. It is inhumane. We were like feral animals locked in this giant cage.”
To make matters worse, things could easily be improved at Texas prisons because of that surplus.
Prisons are used as punishment and a deterrent for future crimes.
But because of partisan bickering, and people pandering to their base with nonsensical issues like removing diversity, equity and inclusion offices from college campus and attempts to rewrite American history, real problems are often left undressed like the prison dilemma and lack of funding for the state’s schools.
If that surplus money was actually spent on our children, which might give them hope of a better future, maybe so many would not turn to crime.
Maybe if adults could earn higher wages at their jobs, they could spend more time raising their children so that they would not get involved with petty crimes.
But because of inflation and other issues, many parents are forced to take on extra jobs just to put food in their children’s stomachs.
That leads to idle time for many teenagers.
And as they say, an idle mind is the devil’s playground.
While much blame goes to the Texas Senate and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Texas House should not face as much criticism because they are at least attempting to do the work of the people and not the work of right-wing agitators and troublemakers.
In April, the Texas House voted to spend $545 million to install air conditioning in many brutally hot prisons in the Lone Star State.
Jolie McCullough of Texas Tribune reported, “It’s a historic win for prison rights’ advocates, who have long fought to cool prisons in a state where the relentless Texas heat has baked prisoners to death, likely contributed to severe staff shortages and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in wrongful death and civil rights lawsuits. More than two-thirds of Texas’ 100 prisons don’t have air conditioning in most living areas, forcing thousands of prison officers and tens of thousands of prisoners to work and live in stifling temperatures.
“But getting the funds included in the final House budget proposal is only half the battle. On the other side of the state Capitol, the more conservative Senate has not set aside any money to install prison air conditioning from the staggering $32.7 billion in extra funds the Legislature has to work with this year.”
For those that would say, if a person does the crime, the person should do the time, what about the people wrongfully convicted?
What about the over-policing of Black neighborhoods versus that of their White counterparts?
Everyone that commits a crime does not get caught and go to prison.
What about the fact that Black defendants often get harsher sentences for the same crime as their White counterparts, even when all mitigating factors are similar?
What about the fact that modern-day policing and imprisonment started in this country as a means of re-enslaving Black men and women?
And what about Blue Lives Matter?
Many conservatives preach about backing the blue.
But how do those who do justify the miserable conditions that prison officers must endure while attempting to do their job?
There is no justification.
Speaking up for the blue is just gesturing for some.
Serving one’s community is just campaign talk for others.
Keeping the people polarized so that they can preserve political power is what it truly is about for many politicians.
The actions of some politicians prove that they are way too heartless to serve the people in their purview.
And other politicians are just straight up criminals themselves, ALLEGEDLY.
Let’s see if the treatment of prisoners improves when those in the halls of Congress transfer their business suits for the prisons suits commonly used by those in confinement.