Advocates urge Florida Dept. of Corrections to do more to keep inmates cool

Most state prisons were built before air conditioning was common
High heat prompts rule changes for Florida inmates
Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 6:00 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2023 at 1:46 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV/Gray Florida Capital Bureau) - Record-setting heat this summer has advocates pushing for the Florida Department of Corrections to do more to keep inmates cool.

Since most state prisons were built before air conditioning was common, the Florida Department of Corrections says it often takes steps to mitigate the adverse effects on inmates. This summer, it is allowing inmates to wear shorts and t-shirts to stay cool.

“When the temperatures are climbing to 96 degrees outside, it’s not reasonable to expect someone to wear long pants,” Florida Cares Executive Director Denise Rock said.

Florida Cares is a nonprofit advocating for prisoners and their families. The group has been asking the corrections department to do something to keep inmates cool in the summer for years.

Rock said she appreciates the effort the department is making now but says not every prison is allowing the looser dress code.

“What we would like to see is that it is implemented in the same method for everybody throughout,” Rock said.

Rock said she’s not asking for every prison to have air conditioning. She just would like to see the Department of Corrections take a few more extra steps.

“There’s no reason we cannot place portable air conditioning units in these institutions and have them in there in the next two weeks and provide immediate relief to incarcerated people,” Rock said.

She said allowing inmates to take more showers during the day to cool off would also help. For her, it’s about showing respect.

“Regardless of what they have done, they are still human beings, they are someone’s mother, there are someone’s father, child, sibling. They are human beings on this earth,” Rock said.

Florida’s oldest prison was built in 1913. The Department of Corrections said the older prisons were designed to promote airflow for natural cooling.

The Gray Florida Capital Bureau did ask the Florida Department of Corrections how many prisons have air conditioning for inmates, but it hasn’t responded yet. According to a 2020 report by Miami New Times, two-thirds of Florida prisons didn’t have air conditioning at the time.