Civil rights advocates have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four convicts against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for exposing sick, elderly and disabled prisoners in Navasota to dangerously hot temperatures.
"We are asking the federal court to require the prison system to find a way to keep temperatures in that prison below 88 degrees at any point of the year," says Brian McGiverin at the Texas Civil Rights Project.
McGiverin says heat has killed 14 Texas prisoners since 2007. Meanwhile, the union representing correctional officers reported 55 heat-related illnesses last year.
"That is especially true for folks who are over the age of 65, or have diabetes, or heart disease, or asthma, or any number of other conditions that involve medications that make you more susceptible to the heat," he tells KTRH News.
The lawsuit points out even prisoners at Gitmo have air conditioning.
McGiverin is calling for new sentencing guidelines for drug offenders and thieves that could free up money by reducing the state's prison population.
"If we were to reduce the 70,000 that we put in every year by just 1,000, that would immediately free up $16 million," he says.