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Saturday, 26 May 2012

Can't stand the heat?

Last year, a guy that my husband knew at his unit died of heat-related complications. The guy had been at the psychiatric unit for a couple of years and had just returned to general population; he was sent straight out to work in the fields in 100 degree heat and died after a few days of working. He was in his 50s.

Texas had a particularly long hot summer last year, and rumours were rife of other heat-related deaths occuring, although TDCJ never publically confirmed any of these. There are plenty of things that can be put as cause of death without implicating a system that puts inmates outside to work in such heat or keeps them in glass and/or metal boxes with little ventilation. This year, it would seem that TDCJ is practicing something quite rare - forward thinking.

My husband has a bottom bunk restriction because of a hernia he had a couple of years ago, and since March he has been on the bottom tier in his wing. I noticed he had been moved last weekend when I sent him a Jpay email (inmates cannot reply by email,  but they can receive printed copies of the text and it's a lot faster than traditional letters through the post when you have something important to say) and I now know why. They needed his bunk for a heat-restriction inmate. Those with that classification are housed whenever possible on the lower 2 tiers (there are 4 tiers to each wing where my husband is), to minimise the amount of stair climbing they have to do. It also helps to keep similar inmates together in one place, and it appears that quite a few guys are being moved around to achieve this.

So now he is back on a third tier, but this time almost as far from the dayroom as he could be. This is good for someone who likes relative peace and quiet when he is reading and writing! His new cellie appears to be a good match as well; another older guy who has been at the unit for the majority of his time. Unfortunately with every move or change, my husband enters a period of self-reflection and self-loathing that can mean he stops writing while he works his way through it.

As we don't have a visit firmly planned for anytime soon, I just have to hope my own well of self-reliance and determination doesn't run dry this summer.

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