In brutal summer heat, prisoners say their cells are like ‘stifling hot coffins’

Days of extreme heat without access to enough water and cooled air become deadlier for an aging prison population.

A jail cell similar to the one where a prisoner at Fort Bend County Jail in Richmond, Texas, recently committed suicide.

Shortly after midnight this past Friday, guards found 37-year-old Elizabeth Hagerty dead in her unair-conditioned Texas prison cell. The day before, temperatures had reached nearly 100 degrees.

Hagerty was scheduled for parole on August 2. She had been sentenced to four years in prison for not meeting the many requirements of her 10-year probation sentence for a fight with an ex-girlfriend.

Her mother-in-law, Martha Romero, told Truthout that Hagerty had diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure, but was otherwise healthy.

In mid-June, Hagerty was transferred from an air-conditioned prison to the Dr. Lane Murray Unit. Ten days later, she told Romero that she was feeling sick, could not keep food down, and had lost 12 pounds over the past week. Two days later, she was dead.

This past June, 32 people died in Texas state prisons. During the last week of June, three people, including Hagerty, died in Texas prisons that lacked air-conditioning. All were in their thirties. Thirty-five-year-old Tommy McCullough died while mowing the grass at the Thomas Goree Unit in Huntsville. His family told KXAN that he had been complaining about excessive heat and insufficient access to water all week.

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