Texas House Budget: A Whooping $545 Million For Prison Air Conditioning!

The Texas House Budget includes a historic allocation of $545 million for installing air conditioning in the state’s prisons. This move comes as a significant win for prison rights advocates who have been campaigning for years to address the dangerously hot conditions in Texas prisons, KBTX reported.

Texas House Budget For Prison Conditioning
Texas House Budget, A Whooping $545 Million For Prison Air Conditioning. (PHOTO: KBTX)

Texas House Budget For Prison Air Conditioning

Currently, over two-thirds of Texas’ 100 prisons lack air conditioning in most living areas, forcing prisoners and prison officers to work and live in stifling temperatures. While the inclusion of the funds in the House budget proposal is a significant step forward, the battle is not yet over. The more conservative Senate has not allocated any money from the $32.7 billion in extra funds available to install prison air conditioning.

Additionally, a Senate bill that would require prisons to maintain temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees, already the law for local jails, has not yet had a hearing. The responsibility for the funding’s outcome now falls on the shoulders of Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has the authority to decide whether and when to move legislation in the Senate.

The lack of air conditioning in Texas prisons has had severe consequences, with prisoners and officers enduring extreme heat during the sweltering summer months. In the past, prisoners have died of heat stroke, and many have reported unbearable working conditions that have led to high turnover rates among prison staff. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has taken some steps to address the issue, such as installing large fans and providing personal fans and access to ice water and cooled areas, but these measures have been deemed insufficient by advocates.

The House budget proposal outlines a four-phase plan developed by the TDCJ to gradually install air conditioning in all prisons by 2031. The first two phases, which are included in the current House funding, would focus on cooling transfer facilities and larger prisons built in the 1980s and 1990s by 2027. However, the remaining two phases, which would cover the remaining 27 prisons, are not included in the current House funding.

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A Step For The Safety of Officers and Staff

Prison rights advocates, including Clifton Buchanan, a former corrections officer and deputy director of the Texas Correctional Employees Council, have emphasized that the issue of air conditioning in prisons is not just about inmates but also about the health and well-being of hard-working prison staff. The inclusion of $545 million in the House budget proposal is a significant step forward, but advocates continue to push for full funding to ensure that all Texas prisons have adequate air conditioning to mitigate the extreme heat and protect the health and safety of prisoners and staff alike.

In conclusion, the $545 million allocation in the Texas House Budget for prison air conditioning is a historic win for prison rights advocates, who have been fighting for years to address the dangerous heat conditions in Texas prisons. However, the battle is not yet over as the Senate has not allocated any funds, and the full implementation of the four-phase plan developed by the TDCJ will require additional funding in future legislative sessions.

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