BTR News – Efforts to Implement Air Conditioning in Prisons: North Carolina and Beyond

by Scotty T. Reid, BTRN -The sweltering heat of summer highlights the growing issue of lack of proper air conditioning in prisons, and North Carolina is a prime example, though this problem is not unique to the state. Around a third of the 31,000 inmates in North Carolina do not have air-conditioned cells, leaving them exposed to health risks and discomfort.

Cierra Cobb, an advocate with Emancipate NC, commented on the unbearable conditions, “It’s just cooking people alive.” This perspective shines a light on the urgency for better living conditions for prisoners, especially as the proportion of elderly inmates rises. As of 2019, 14% of North Carolina’s prison population was aged 55 or older, a stark increase from the 3% in 2000. The elderly are more susceptible to heat-related health complications, making this an even more pressing concern.

Although the Department of Adult Correction in North Carolina has initiated a multi-year project to air condition all its prisons, backed by a $30 million legislative grant, progress is lagging. Many facilities are outdated, with some built as early as the 1930s. These structures need significant renovations before the installation of modern air conditioning units, delaying the process.

The state is not alone in facing these challenges. Aging infrastructures in prisons across the country require significant investment and overhaul to ensure humane living conditions for inmates.

While North Carolina’s prison department has completed air conditioning projects for some units and prioritized others, a definitive plan remains uncertain. John Bull, a representative from the prison system, acknowledged the complexity of these HVAC installations in older structures.

Incarcerated individuals often face the dilemma of choosing between an air-conditioned cell or a sweltering common area, leading to tensions among inmates. Cierra Cobb’s personal account highlighted the distress, noting that even though parts of some prisons, like the Warren Correctional Institution, are air-conditioned, inmates might not spend most of their time there.

The scale of the challenge is evident from the Department of Adult Correction’s data:

  • 31,029 inmates in North Carolina prisons as of Aug. 11
  • 15,211 prison beds lack air conditioning, with ongoing projects aiming to cover 2,900 beds
  • $30 million set aside for air conditioning installation in 40 prisons by 2026
  • 22 prisons already have 100% air-conditioned spaces for inmates, but 10 other prisons have less than 20% air-conditioned sleeping areas

Prison systems across various states must address this issue, ensuring that all inmates, regardless of their age or health status, are provided with humane living conditions, even during the hottest months.

For readers concerned about the lack of humane conditions in prisons, there are several actions they can take to advocate for better treatment of inmates:

  1. Stay Informed: Continuously educate yourself about the state of prisons both locally and nationally. Understand the nuances of the prison system and the challenges faced by inmates.
  2. Raise Awareness: Share articles like this one, along with personal reactions, on social media platforms, blogs, or community forums to raise awareness about the issue.
  3. Engage with Organizations: Join or donate to advocacy groups like Emancipate NC, and Prison Policy Initiative that work towards improving conditions for prisoners. These organizations often have initiatives in place to directly address such issues.
  4. Contact Local and State Officials: Write letters, send emails, or make phone calls to local and state representatives, demanding immediate attention to the issue. Personalized, heartfelt letters can be particularly effective.
  5. Attend Town Hall Meetings: Engage with local officials and community leaders at town hall meetings, voicing your concerns about prison conditions and the need for reforms.
  6. Participate in Protests and Rallies: Join or organize peaceful protests and rallies that demand better living conditions for inmates.
  7. Support Rehabilitation Programs: Advocate for and support initiatives that focus on rehabilitating inmates rather than just incarcerating them. Rehabilitation can reduce recidivism and help inmates reintegrate into society.
  8. Educate Others: Organize informational sessions or workshops in your community to discuss the state of prisons and the importance of humane conditions for inmates.
  9. Petitions: Start or sign online petitions demanding reforms in the prison system. A significant number of signatures can put pressure on officials to take action.
  10. Engage the Media: Write op-eds, letters to the editor, or reach out to local news outlets to cover the story, thereby amplifying the issue to a larger audience. Support outlets and organizations like Black Talk Media Project that use various forms of media to educate, and inform and regularly cover these issues.
  11. Volunteer: Offer your time to organizations working on prison reform. This could be in the form of legal aid, educational programs for inmates, or even mental health support.
  12. Support Families of Inmates: Recognize that families of those incarcerated also face challenges. Support initiatives that help them maintain ties, such as transport services to prisons or counseling services.
  13. Promote Transparency: Advocate for transparency within the prison system, such as regular checks on conditions, publishing reports on inmate health and well-being, and ensuring accountability.
  14. Vote: Support politicians who prioritize prison reforms and humane conditions for inmates. Voting is one of the most powerful tools citizens have to influence change.

Lastly, it’s essential to remember that the prison system and the people within it are complex. Advocating for humane conditions is about recognizing the humanity of every individual, regardless of their past actions.

Share This!
Comment Here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments Protected by WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam