As a large winter storm introduced freezing temperatures and widespread energy outages to Texas, folks incarcerated in jails there have been left with no operating water, no additional blankets and meager meals.
“We’re in here freezing to death and starving,” Finis Prendergast, a 42-year-old National Guard veteran who has been incarcerated in a Harris County jail for 29 months, informed HuffPost on Wednesday.
Mass energy outages have plunged hundreds of thousands throughout the state into darkness with no warmth, whereas temperatures have dropped under freezing in latest days. Officials nonetheless have no idea when energy will probably be broadly restored.
Prendergast mentioned that after energy went out on the jail round 2 a.m. on Monday, mills kicked in, however energy was restored in a restricted vogue: Only certainly one of 5 rows of lights within the dorm lit up, and electrical retailers didn’t work. He mentioned “cool air” has been blowing by the vents, and so they weren’t given any dinner Monday night time.
Nigel Patrick, a 37-year-old incarcerated in the identical facility, confirmed Prendergast’s account that they hadn’t obtained dinner on Monday. He mentioned that folks had not obtained any additional blankets and had been wrapped up “like a burrito” within the single skinny blanket they already had.
On Tuesday night time, corrections officers distributed 16-ounce water bottles, which individuals incarcerated on the facility now should use for ingesting, brushing their tooth, and washing their fingers. Meanwhile, the 9 bathrooms within the facility — that are utilized by dozens of individuals — have been stuffed as much as the brim with urine and feces.
“It’s unbearable,” Patrick mentioned on the cellphone from the jail, chatting with HuffPost and Texas Jail Project advocates. “I’ve been holding my bowels, needing to defecate for two days.”
In response to questions, the Harris County sheriff’s workplace directed HuffPost to its statements on Twitter, which confirmed that its three jail amenities lost water pressure, however mentioned they nonetheless had energy. The office claimed the heat was “working fine” and that folks in its jails obtained three meals a day and additional blankets.
The majority of individuals in jails throughout the United States are being held pretrial, many just because they can not afford bail. People in U.S. prisons are additionally disproportionately Black.
Due to widespread energy outages, there was a danger that many vials of the COVID-19 vaccine — which should be stored in sub-zero freezers — would go dangerous, so Prendergast, Patrick and others in Harris County jails received the vaccine yesterday.
Harris County is much from the one jail or jail system to fail its incarcerated inhabitants amid the storm. The Texas Jail Project has relayed reports from folks in jails in a number of different counties who’ve mentioned they haven’t any entry to operating water.
People in state prisons are additionally reporting that inadequate food and overworked jail employees amid the snowstorm, in accordance with The Marshall Project.
Hundreds of girls incarcerated at a federal medical jail in Fort Worth had been additionally left “freezing” with out warmth amid the storm, the Forth Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Prendergast famous that they haven’t had a sizzling meal in days and as an alternative of the same old bread with peanut butter and jelly within the mornings, as we speak they obtained a small muffin — “incredibly tiny, like bite-size” — with three little packets of jelly and peanut butter. “What am I supposed to do with that?” he requested.
“This storm has really brought out some of the issues they have in the prison system,” mentioned Tracy Williams, policy director at Texas Inmate Families Association, which represents households with family members in Texas prisons. He mentioned his group has been getting emails about folks imprisoned dropping energy and spending days with out warmth. “It speaks to some much needed change.”
Meanwhile, freezing temperatures are set to continue in Texas within the coming days.
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