Texas prisons address heat issues with large fans

HUNTSVILLE, Texas – The nation’s most populous prison system, facing legal actions and criticism about inmates having to endure oppressive Texas summer heat, is looking to make conditions a bit more bearable at seven state lockups by installing cooling systems similar to those seen on the sidelines of early-season football games.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials insist the new cooling devices are not in response to numerous lawsuits alleging triple-digit temperature readings inside prison buildings are improperly cruel punishment and have led to inmates’ deaths.

Jay Eason, the deputy director of prison and jail operations, said Friday the 28 Cool-Space evaporative coolers are “just something we thought we would try.” He noted the agency buys fans every year, adding, “This year we purchased close to 700 additional fans for offender housing and work areas.”

The cooling equipment employs a large fan inside about a 6-foot-by-6-foot box. Water from a hose behind the $1,800 device flows over coils that cool the air pushed by the fan. Similar devices are used at athletic events, although those often blow a mist, too.