When most people think of Florida, the first thing that comes to mind is the hot weather, which draws millions of people to the state each year. While the weather is ideal for enjoying the water, it is nothing short of torture for many of the over 80,000 inmates in the Florida prison system. This is because most of the prisons in the state do not have air conditioning. It may be hard to believe, but only about 23% of the prison facilities in the state have air conditioning according to Molly Best, the Department of Corrections Spokesperson. This is because most of the facilities are aging and were built at a time when air conditioning was not readily available. While the facilities were built to allow airflow through the area, that is not sufficient to keep the temperature at reasonable levels, especially during the scorching summer months. Prison Requirements Make Airflow a ChallengePrisons obviously have very specific requirements when it comes to design, materials used, and other factors that all contribute to the environments within the facility. While every Florida prison is unique, some things to be aware of include:
- Prison Cell Locations – With thousands of inmate cells in each prison, it is difficult to create an environment with proper airflow. This leads to many ‘hot spots’ within the prisons where the temperatures are significantly higher than the average area (which is still very warm).
- Inability to Use Window Air Conditioners – Prisons cannot use window air conditioners due to safety issues as well as the excessive cost to run these types of units.
- Building Materials Retain Heat – Most prisons, especially the older ones that do not have air conditioning, are built out of materials that absorb the heat from the sun during the day and release it back into the facility at night. This makes it so the facility remains unbearably hot even at night.
- Requirement for Multiple Doors – Prison design requires that there are a lot of barriers, doors, and other obstacles to help keep the inmates secured. This also creates challenges for creating airflow throughout the facility.
The fact that there are some significant challenges that need to be overcome in order to properly cool a prison facility, however, is not an excuse for failing to take action. Government officials, and especially those in the Department of Corrections, have long known that the heat in prisons routinely reaches the triple digits. In addition, since prisoners have nowhere that they can go to stay cool, the heat in prisons (in the minds of many) creates an environment that should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. Temperatures Topping 100 Degrees in Cells Temperatures in Florida prisons are routinely over 100 degrees inside. During the summer, these numbers can go up significantly, going up over 120 degrees during the hottest part of the day. While most people can tolerate these excessive temperatures for short periods of times, the inmates are forced to endure it constantly until the weather changes. Serious Medical Consequences Excessive heat can cause a wide range of different health problems including severe dehydration, heat stroke, kidney problems, seizures, heart problems, and more. Many of the health issues that are caused by excessive heat can have other causes as well, however, which can make it nearly impossible to track just how many health problems, and even deaths, have been caused by the lack of air conditioning in Florida prisons. Advocates Pushing to Require Air Conditioning for Prisons Prison inmates, family members, and advocacy groups have long been attempting to draw attention to this very serious issue. Unfortunately, many people turn a blind eye to the conditions that prisoners have to endure because of the fact that they were convicted of crimes, and they are out of the public eye. The reality remains, however, that thousands of Florida’s residents are living in an almost constant state of excessive heat. Passing legislation that would require all Florida prisons to be fully air conditioned is the only way to ensure the prisoners are treated humanely.
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