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Family member of Garza West inmate speaks out of scorching hot conditions inside cells with no AC

Nearly 70% of all state prisons don’t have air conditioning. Garza West in Beeville, one of the 55 units with partial AC.
Posted at 10:18 PM, Jul 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-05 23:18:10-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Inmates serving sentences inside Texas state prisons are one of the populations that can’t escape the Texas heat, even if they wanted to.

Nearly 70% of all state prisons don’t have air conditioning.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice runs 100 facilities across the state. Only 31 of those facilities have AC inside all units, 55 have partial AC, and 14 do not have AC at all.

“I come to speak not only for my brother, I come to speak for the rest of them too,” said Angelica Ardila, sister of an inmate incarcerated at Garza West Unit in Beeville.

The Garza West Unit is one of the 55 units that have partial AC, which Ardila says has been a nightmare for her brother and the rest of the inmates inside.

“They are sleeping in a room all together with no clothes on,” said Ardila.

Ardila, who wished to keep her brother’s name anonymous due to possible retaliation, said her biggest worry was her brother’s health.

Ardila describes how her brother and the rest of the prisoners are trying to keep cool during the night.

“The fan that is actually helping them sleep during the night, once it gets hot, it stops. They are having to shower during the night, and so they are having to get up, go take a shower, get up again - until the fan cools down again, and it starts all over again,” described Ardila.

Heat-related illnesses aren’t the only concerns Ardila’s brother has to worry about.

“There are also having trouble with rats, mice, fleas, ticks, and also cockroaches,” said Ardila.

Ardila’s brother is allergic to flea bites and said whenever he has gotten sick in the past, they end up with the bill.

“The agency recognizes that some inmates are potentially at a heightened risk of heat-related illnesses because of their age, health conditions, or medications,” said Amanda Hernandez Director of Communications for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

According to Amanda, they have an “automated heat sensitivity score” which identifies what inmates need to be placed in housing that has air-conditioning.

So far this year, only seven inmates across all units have required “medical care beyond first aid for heat-related injuries”; none were fatal.

Some lawmakers have tried to pass a bill to have universal air conditioning in state prisons but has failed to gain approval.

“I will repeat myself, they are humans, yes. They committed a crime, they made a mistake, but they are already paying for it,” said Ardila.