‘I thought I was going to die there.’ What it’s like to live with rising temperatures in prison

new report released last month by Texas A&M University details consequences of extreme heat in Texas prisons, where a lack of air conditioning poses dangerous conditions for those incarcerated as well as staff.

It’s a problem that is not limited to just the state — or only the American southwest — and some experts and advocates say it is likely to worsen as the country experiences more extreme temperatures.

The Texas A&M report, based on analysis of surveys from 309 individuals incarcerated between 2018 and 2020, found that the prisons at the time did not have enough air conditioned beds for all of the people who were identified as “heat sensitive” and “designated as ‘Cool Bed Priority Offenders’ (CBP), meaning they are prioritized to get into an air-conditioned housing unit.”

The people considered by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to be “cool bed priority offenders” are generally at the highest risk for heat sensitivity, and often have heart disease, mental health disorders, Alzheimer’s disease or developmental disabilities. People 65 or older with certain prescriptions or medical conditions can also be prioritized for air conditioned beds.

While the state prison system has implemented heat mitigation measures, they’re inconsistently followed, according to the report.