As Temperature Drops, Incarcerated People Brace for Dangerously Cold Conditions

“The cells don’t have any heat. So, they’re sleeping with their clothes on,” a woman named Regina told Truthout of her son’s experience in Hill Correctional Center in Illinois in early December. “They’re not heating the tiers. There’s no heat in the day room. There’s no heat outside the showers.… The water is cold. You can let it run for a little while and you may get a little warm. But it’s not enough.”

Regina has felt the cold in the prison firsthand. “It’s even cold in the visitor’s room,” she said. “I don’t have any hair right now, because I have cancer. So, I wear a head wrap or a hat, but I can’t wear it in there. Because you can’t have anything on your head.” She wrote three letters to the warden requesting a medical exemption, but never heard back. “So, I go in there with nothing on my head,” she said. “My head is freezing. But I want to see my son.”

As people across the country brace for upcoming cold weather, many of those set to suffer the most are incarcerated in prisons and jails. Each winter, people in old, drafty facilities shiver for months in their cells, struggling to function and fearing for their health. They have no control over cell temperature, and often little access to warm clothes or extra blankets. Inevitably, some outdated heating systems across the country will fail, leaving people in dangerously frigid temperatures.

“This speaks to a much larger issue of the infrastructure, in general, of our prisons,” Jennifer Vollen-Katz, executive director of the John Howard Association (JHA), an Illinois-based citizen correctional oversight organization, told Truthout. “In Illinois, we have many really old, decrepit facilities that are unsafe, and frankly, unfit for human habitation.”

Both JHA and the Chicago-based Uptown People’s Law Center (UPLC) receive letters every winter from people incarcerated in dangerously cold prisons in Illinois. UPLC Executive Director Alan Mills told Truthout that complaints come most frequently from the state’s three maximum-security prisons, the newest of which was built in the 1920s. “They are long past their design life,” he explained. “These are 100-year-old buildings, which have been heavily and hard used, and not maintained.… They haven’t had an HVAC system that works, in any sort of modern sense, installed in any of these prisons. So, it’s too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.”

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Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself. Veteran of a thousand psychic wars. I have seen the fnords. Deplatformed on Tumblr and Twitter.

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