Hot Texas Prisons Prompt Lawmakers To Consider Air Conditioning, Depending On Cost

Chris Fox
March 22, 2019 - 11:19 am
Prison, Jail

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AUSTIN (1080 KRLD) - Sweltering conditions in Texas Prisons in the summer has lawmakers considering adding air conditioning.

State Representative Terry Canales’s bill (House Bill 936) would require prisons to be no cooler than 65 degrees and no hotter than 85.

Canales told House Corrections Committee members "The odor itself is criminal. It’s disgusting, It’s terrible, it’s not fair, it’s inhumane. The way we’re treating these people, the state is acting criminally.”

One problem may be the cost. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) estimates the price-tag for retro-fitting the State’s 75 prisons that currently don’t have AC in the housing areas at $1.2-billion.

The executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Bryan Collier says the numbers are accurate. “That estimate is what we truly believe it would cost, if potentially not more.”

Canales challenged the $1.2-billion fiscal note on his bill. “This is an exorbitant, disingenuous number that’s used to scare away people such as yourselves from saying this can’t happen, we can’t do this…where the heck are we going to get it.” Canales called out the TDCJ for overestimating AC retrofit projects in the past.

Back in 2017 the TDCJ came up with a $20-million estimate to add AC to the Wallace Pack Unit. “The last recent air condition unit that was installed was about $4-million. So when you juxtapose that to this it doesn’t work.”

The committee is also considering amendments to the Canales bill to help cut costs like using prison labor and installing solar panels.