The State of Texas has decided to provide 'climate-controlled' barns for pigs in its agricultural prison program as many prison guards swelter and some inmates die from extreme temperatures in unairconditioned Texas prisons.
The criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast reported last week that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has contracted with Art's Way Scientific, an Iowa-based company, to build six “modular swine buildings” for $750,000. These buildings “are completely climate controlled” according to a statement from the company's President. Art's Way Scientific's website states that its modules are the ideal environment for swine, because “…excess heat or cold will cause stress and can impact health.”
Read More Below The FoldTDCJ's decision to provide climate controlled units for the pigs prisoners raise for consumption and sale is notable, because the state is being sued over several heat-related deaths. Five wrongful death lawsuits are pending against TDCJ officials. Fourteen prisoners have died in TDCJ prisons during the the summer months since 2007 from heat stroke, according to a press release from the Texas Civil Rights Project. The press release states that, in Texas prisons, “the indoor heat index can regularly reach 130 degrees.”
Scott Medlock, an attorney and the director of the Texas Civil Rights Project's Prisoners' Rights Program, expressed outrage at the prioritization of pig safety over the safety of human beings. “TDCJ has literally made the decision that protecting its bacon is more important than protecting human lives.”
In my experience, the public isn't generally concerned with prison conditions. But, Texas has been successfully sued over brutally harsh prison conditions before. A lawsuit filed in 1978 forced reforms and ended up putting Texas' prison system under federal scrutiny for more than three decades. A 5th Circuit case last year cleared the way for inmates to sue over excessive heat.