A Former Texas Inmate Is Suing the State for Roasting Him in an AC-less Prison

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Scott Rogers
A new lawsuit claims the high temperatures in Dallas' Hutchins State Jail harmed an inmate.
Texas, as you may have intuited, is hot, but Texas prisons, as you may have heard, are hotter. Since 2007, 14 inmates, including nine in 2011 alone, have died from heat-related illnesses, according to a 2014 report from UT Law School's Human Rights Clinic.

Larry McCollum's death received most of the press. McCollum was a 58-year-old Hutchins inmate -- in for a nonviolent crime -- who suffered a seizure after several 100-degree-plus days in a row. At the hospital, his body temp was 109.8 degrees. He fell into a coma and died six days later, from living in a place with high temperatures and no A/C. Lawyers from the Texas Civil Rights Project sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which runs the state's prison system. That lawsuit is still playing itself out, but now the department has another one on its hands.

Heat doesn't do Bradley Caddell, who lived in Hutchins State Jail when McCollum died, any favors. He is in his early 50s, five-foot-five and obese. According to a lawsuit he recently filed, he suffered from high blood pressure, which can cause strokes. His health condition made working in the jail difficult, let alone standing, walking and breathing.

Jail doctors prescribed him a beta blocker for his blood pressure, he claims. But beta blockers have a side effect that make the heat even more dangerous for Caddell -- they can limit the body's ability to sweat, essentially keeping it from cooling itself. (Thirteen of the 14 inmates who died had health circumstances that made them more vulnerable to heat, according to the UT Law report.) Doctors recommended, due to his health and his medication, that Caddell not work in hot conditions.

He worked with boilers before he got inside, though, and in fall 2011 that experience earned him a position in the boiler room, "the hottest job assignment in the prison," according to the complaint. He claims jail personnel made him work there because they didn't want to train someone else to operate the boilers.

While working in the boiler room one day in 2012, a jail staffer wrapped a white armband on Caddell. The white armbands, according to the complaint, identified inmates susceptible to the heat because of medical conditions. Despite the armband, Caddell continued to work in the boiler room.

At the end of June last year, with his shift over at 10 p.m., Caddell returned to his bunk feeling weak and sick from the heat. He showered to cool off, according to the complaint, but it didn't work. Then he went to sleep. At 2 a.m., feeling hot, he tried to shower again. An officer stopped him.

Prisoners are supposed to have access to the showers at all times of day during the summer for relief from the heat. Officers at Hutchins, though, were not allowing night showers, and the jail administrators knew it, Caddell claims.

The next morning, Caddell showered again, and once more in the early afternoon. He wasn't cooling off, and he still felt sick. He told a supervisor he needed to go the jail's clinic. While there, he enjoyed the A/C. When his temperature was taken, he had a fever of 100 degrees. The nurses treated him, but his body temp continued to rise.

Around 6:30, the nurses called 911. At Parkland Hospital, Caddell was diagnosed with heat stroke and dehydration, according to the complaint. After he got an IV of cool fluids to course through his veins, he was released and went back to Hutchins the same night.

Eventually he was transferred to another prison, where another man had died of heat stroke, according to the complaint. Caddell now lives close to Houston. On June 20, he sued the state and nine of its employees, including Hutchins' warden and the department's top official.

"Despite knowing that at least ten people with similar medical conditions died the previous summer from heat stroke and that numerous other prisoners and correctional officers suffered heat-related injuries, (the defendants) forced Caddell to live in dangerously hot dormitories, and work in Hutchins State Jail's even hotter boiler room during the blazing hot Texas summer," he claims.

The complaint goes on to list several examples of why jail officials should have known the heat was dangerous. The heat index is broadcast over their radios every hour. A medical doctor employed by the criminal justice department kept a database of "heat-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths from around the (prison) system long before Caddell was hurt," according to the complaint.

Also, the tables inside Hutchins are hot to the touch, and prison officers routinely sweated through their uniforms, according to the complaint. Hutchins' bunk areas don't have outlets so personal fans aren't an option, according to the complaint. Other jails accommodate prisoners with fans, but, according to the 2014 report from UT Law, fans are expensive for inmates.

Recently, the AP reported that the criminal justice department is hoping to make seven state prisons a little more bearable by using large fans, like those football teams use to cool down on game days.

The state has not yet responded to the complaint.

Send your story tips to the author, Sky Chadde.

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15 comments
whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

Dont do anything illegal = dont go to prison = have all the A/C you can afford 

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

I saw a TDC bus rolling down the highway a couple of weeks ago in Central Texas; it was 95 degree's w/90% humidity.....I'm sorry, that is inhumane. Want convicts to stay in the system, then keep buses and facilities at 140 degree's.  Then when they come out, they will be pissed off and useless. 


ps-For such a rich and vibrant state, we are STILL a backwater outpost. 

Threeboys
Threeboys

He should have been on a chain gang.  That way he might at least get a little breeze.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

A shining example of the pro life miracle state.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@ozonelarryb

Texas is the only state without AC in its prisons, of course.

mcreed80
mcreed80

@TheRuddSki I  grew up in a home with no ac.  The only air we had was windows and an attic fan.  Many people outside of jail live in worse conditions than those living in jail.

The solution is, if you don't want to be in a prision without ac, don't do shit that will get you locked up. 

casiepierce
casiepierce

@mcreed80 @TheRuddSki Yeah and so? You had windows, a breeze and an attic fan, all things that you don't have in prison. Much as you would like to, no, we can't just park people in a "hot box" (remake of the 'Longest Yard' anyone?) and call it quits.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@mcreed80

I grew up in the tropics with no AC, but the difference is, houses were built to use breezes, prisons aren't.

I think a lot of prisons were built prior to AC. Leavenworth wasn't AC'd until 2002. I couldn't find info on the percentage of state or fed prisons with AC, but eventually, most will be, especially since temperatures in the South will be in the 180 degree range because China.

triptheory
triptheory

@mcreed80 @TheRuddSki Do you have a health condition that makes you susceptible to high temps? If not, then your anecdotal argument means very little to the discussion. 


Then it's topped off with the typical conservative "bootstrappy" rhetoric. Sure. Inhumane treatment is okay because they are criminals. Criminals stop being human when they are convicted? Is that what you are saying?

casiepierce
casiepierce

@TheRuddSki It seems that all you have to do to get a negative reaction in here from everyone is just sign-in. No matter how right you are.

hilllbillle
hilllbillle

@triptheory  are they real criminals? how many of them lowlife criminal scumbags gittin' tortured by way of apathy is jist victims of  our modern day prohibition.

mcreed80
mcreed80

@triptheory And you added so much to the conversation with the name calling.  Give yourself a pat on the back for not knowing what you are talking about and ASSuming too much (emphasis on the ASS part). 

And I'm not saying they should be treated inhumanely.  I'm saying that he got himself into that situation by doing something against the law.  Being in jail/prision isn't meant to be the Four Seasons Resort ...it's supposed to be a punishement.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@casiepierce

It's a gift.

leftocenter
leftocenter

@triptheory @mcreed80

mc80, exactly what "name calling" did t-theory call?  Conservative?  That's the only word I could find that I could characterize that way. 

See, the inmate screwed up and ended up in prison.  What he didn't get was a death sentence.  It's also arguably cruel and unusual, and would probably lose a constitutional challenge. (Can't search your cell phone...can't bake you.)

Don't coddle them, but when one of every 18 men in the US is incarcerated we ought not make them more hot headed before they rejoin us in our habitat.

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