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As Heat Increases, 44 States Don't Fully Air Condition Their Prisons

At least 44 states, including those with some of the highest temperatures nationally, don't have universal air conditioning in their prisons, USA TODAY reports. With scientists and studies chronicling the intense impact of climate change in fueling hotter temperatures, advocates for incarcerated people are sounding the alarm about sweltering conditions in prisons, where infrastructure is ill-equipped for a problem likely to worsen. Advocates say the hot conditions in prisons may constitute "cruel and unusual punishment" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.

Only four of Alabama's 26 state correctional facilities have air conditioning in all dormitories, in a state where it regularly reaches the mid-90s in the summer, reported the Montgomery Advertiser. Just twenty four percent of hot, humid Florida’s state-run prison housing units are air-conditioned, said Molly Best, a Florida Department of Corrections spokesperson. Only one state – Tennessee – said its prisons were fully air-conditioned. "When we think about how climate change is going to continue to affect people who are incarcerated, we will also be thinking about the places that haven't historically acclimated to the heat,” said Julie Skarha of the Brown University Department of Epidemiology. “They're going to be even more at risk without that infrastructure and the resources."