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Texas summers are long, hot, and humid. But many of the state’s prisons lack universal air conditioning. So during heat waves, many of the more than 100,000 people living in the state’s prisons face sweltering conditions.

“I hear things like, it gets so hot in there sometimes that they can’t go in the day room because the metal’s too hot, they can’t even sit in the chairs. I hear stories of people passing out during the heat,” says Amite Dominick, president and founder of Texas Prisons Community Advocates.

She says people are terrified for their loved ones in prison.

“Some of the comments that I’ve seen from these family members are saying things like, ‘My son doesn’t want to live anymore. I’m afraid they’re going to commit suicide because they just can’t take the heat. It’s just driving them crazy.’”

Dominick’s group helps people advocate for friends and family members. And it’s pushing for legislation that would require universal air conditioning in all Texas prisons.

“It needs to happen,” she says. “I’m fearful that more people are going to die. Every summer I tense up and I get ready for ‘What mother am I going to have to console this summer?’”

She says solutions are needed urgently, especially as the climate warms.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media