Thousands of people incarcerated in Texas had to endure inhumane living conditions in a subfreezing weather emergency, while also battling the COVID-19 pandemic, reported the Workers World.
“Many of the inmates [at Clemens], my husband included, fear going to sleep because they’re afraid they’re going to die in their sleep,” said Lauren Byrd-Moreno.
Many of Texas prisons are over 100 years old, including Clemens, according to the February 2021 article. In the Ramsey Unit, prisoners complained of bone-freezing wind that blew through cracked, broken, and missing window panes in the housing unit.
“We are freezing,” said Nanon Williams, incarcerated at Ramsey, told the World. “This prison is 112 years old and was falling apart before this latest disaster. We have no heat, no water, very little cold food. Dinner tonight was a piece of cornbread and some peanut butter.”
Williams added that on the first day of the storm, only 10 guards came to work. Ramsey houses almost 2,000 prisoners with more than 400 employees, reported the article.
“(The) heat was off for almost four days. Only then did we get an extra blanket,” said Williams. “Almost everyone has had COVID at Ramsey and the respiratory problems are still here. Coughing can be heard all over the place.”
Almost half of all Texas prisons did not have running water or their faucets did not function properly. People defecated in paper bags for relief and some set fires in the units to keep warm. Also some pictures of fingers and toes split open from frostbite went viral from contraband cell phones, reported Gloria Rubac of the Workers World.
Death Row was also without water for days.
“Yes, the water is out, but my water at home is out too,” came a response from the Polunsky Unit, according to the article.
Texas’ prison system is aging and there are quite a few decrepit units. The older prison units are south of Houston closer to the Gulf of Mexico and the Brazos River, which often floods the units and the occupants are transferred to other units, noted the article.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison board has continued to refuse to advocate funding for proper maintenance of its prison system, said the article.
A Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson told The Houston Chronicle that all the prisons had heat and they “try to keep it at 70 degrees.”
“Seventy degrees below zero, maybe,” said Anthony Graves, formerly incarcerated, to the Chronicle.