We know how it is. It’s been a long summer, and every day at 5:02pm your boss stops by your cubicle and just goes on and on and on about the new Buick Regal he just bought. And all you can think about as he is describing the 295 lbs.-ft. of torque his sweet ride gets is “What the hell are pounds-feet? Is that a thing? Ugh, this guy never shuts up. Sigh, I kind of want a snack right now. Actually, you know what I’m really in the mood for right now? Committing a felony. Seriously, when’s the last time I engaged in wire fraud? Or even an arson, for that matter? Oooh, that reminds me, I need to drive down to Lubbock sometime this week. I wonder if there’s going to be traffic? You know, while I’m down there anyway, maybe I should blow off a little steam and just hold up a convenience store or two. I feel like that would be kind of fun. Plus, I could totally go for a Slurpie right now, so, you know, two birds with on stone.”
Okay, stop right there. We know that armed robbery sounds like a lot of fun, and, really, what else is there to do in Lubbock, Texas? But seriously — and we cannot emphasize this enough — do not commit a crime in Texas.
Why? Well, there are a number of reasons. But the one we are thinking of right now is the fact that you will pretty much be cooked alive if you spend time in a Texas state prison.
Seriously, this is a real thing that actually happens.
Backed by the Texas Civil Rights Project, the family of Larry Gene McCollum has filed a lawsuit against the Hutchins State Jail in Dallas claiming that the conditions in Texas jails violate the Eighth Amendment because their heat levels constitute cruel and unusual punishment. While heat indexes outside Texas prisons reached 130-150 degrees last summer, 90 out of the 111 Texas jails lack full air conditioning.
McCollum, a 58 year old man serving 11 months for forgery, had just arrived at the Hutchins State Jail when he collapsed and died there:
Scott Medlock, director of the TCRP’s prisoners’ rights program, said the Hutchins facility was not fully air-conditioned and the temperature inside the jail last summer was nearly the same as outside, about 96 degrees with a heat index between dangerous and extremely dangerous. Medlock said that McCollum’s body temperature was above 109 degrees when he arrived at the hospital. Prison officials distributed limited amounts of water to the inmates, but because McCollum had not yet received an identification card, he could not purchase a cup to drink the water. He could not purchase a fan, either.
When McCollum arrived, Medlock said, officers welcomed him with the phrase “Welcome to hell.”
After three days at the state jail, on July 22, 2011, McCollum collapsed. He had suffered from hypertension and was overweight, but his children said he had been relatively healthy. He died July 28, and the autopsy attributed his death to living in a hot environment.
This was not an isolated incident, apparently, as the Texas Civil Rights Project intends to file lawsuits on behalf of the families of other inmates who have suffered a similar fate. But don’t worry too much. According to Texas prison officials, the inmates who died were old fatties, so, you know, they had it coming. Reassuringly, the inmates “had other conditions including heart and weight problems, being on medication, and hypertension, as well as advanced age.”
But perhaps more incriminating than the fact that these inmates were old and fat is the fact that they were, well, criminals. Therefore, since this is Americagoddamit, they deserved to be boiled alive. In the words of Texas State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston):
“I’m sorry about the conditions, but I guess I could be real direct and say, you know, if you don’t want to be there, don’t commit a crime….We have limited taxpayer dollars and resources. And we need to use it as best we can. And it’s not going to be spent for air conditioning of our prisons.”
Okay, so you’re finally getting the point, right? Don’t commit your crime in Texas. Go somewhere more civilized, like Louisiana or Mississippi. Aha, and that’s where you would make your next mistake!! Earlier this summer, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans remanded a new trial in the lawsuit filed by former inmate Eugene Blackmon, who suffered from dizziness, nausea, and headaches when his cell reached a heat index of 130 degrees. Eight years earlier that court similarly ruled that that conditions in Mississppi jails were constitutionally unacceptable, as the windows in the jails had been sealed shut, fans and cold water were unavailable, and access to showers was not allowed during extremely hot weather.
Bottom line: If you are going to commit a felony, we suggest looking into more temperate climate zones, such as coastal California or the Pacific Northwest.