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Winter Storm Uri’s Impact on Texas Jails

It’s common knowledge that inmates in Texas jails endure unhealthy conditions and abuse. In the past, they’ve experienced extreme temperatures and unsanitary conditions. As the Texas prison population continues to grow and jails near capacity, more accounts of physical abuse and neglect emerge. When winter storm Uri tore through Texas, inmates also had to contend with infrastructural issues. Nearly ⅓ of Texas jails lost power and had very little water if any. All prison units used backup generator power. However, those generators oftentimes didn’t support heating systems.

Unsanitary Conditions

Frozen pipes stopped or slowed the flow of water in many prisons across the state of Texas. Many incarcerated people couldn’t shower or flush toilets. Inmates at one Harris County jail reported toilets filled to the brim and smells so rank it made them ill. The Texas prison system also doesn’t distribute hand sanitizer to inmates due to the alcohol content, and without water to wash their hands, prisoners were dealing with very unsanitary conditions. Inmates being forced to live in an unhygienic environment has always been a concern, however, amid Covid-19 concerns this can be even more dangerous. For prisoners with chronic illnesses and immunodeficiencies, this situation presents very serious concerns for their health.  

Unsafe Water

Many areas in Texas were placed under a boil advisory and residents were urged not to drink tap water, because it could’ve been contaminated with bacteria. All prisons provided water bottles to prisoners but they were told to ration it. Corrections officers distributed 16-ounce water bottles to prisoners. The prisoners were then instructed to use the water for drinking, washing their hands, and brushing their teeth. 

Power Outages

During winter storm Uri, 2 million Texas households lost power. The state’s electric grid wasn’t prepared to warm all of the homes necessary, so people were either forced to be a part of rolling blackouts or simply lost power for extended periods of time. People who were affected bundled up, burned wood, and searched for warming centers. 

Incarcerated people didn’t have the option to find other heating solutions. The subfreezing temperatures quickly infiltrated jails through broken windows and walls. Inmates had to huddle under any blankets they could find in their unheated cells. Many reported getting sick or being afraid to fall asleep, in case they’d freeze and never wake up. 

Limited Resources

Inmates at a Harris County jail confirmed that when the power went out, the generators restored very little power. The majority of lights didn’t turn on, electrical outlets weren’t usable, and the heat stopped working. Any air blowing through the vents was too cold to provide any relief. Anyone who couldn’t get extra blankets wrapped up in a single thin blanket to keep warm. 

Incarcerated people also reported being hungry. Correctional facilities, like much of Texas, were unprepared to handle that extreme of a cold front. In the beginning, people missed dinner. Later, people across the state experienced varying degrees of food scarcity. People in prisons across the state echoed that they weren’t receiving adequate amounts or quality of food. 

Houston Bail Bonds

ABC Bail Bonds wants to give you the chance to bail out of jail, for your safety and to prepare yourself for the upcoming legal process. Conditions in Texas jails are notoriously unsavory, and after the storm last month it’s clear that you should spend as little time in jail as possible. Besides being uncomfortable, structural problems can actually be detrimental to your health. That’s why ABC Bail Bonds works hard to bail you out fast. After we post your bail, you can use your time to find a qualified defense attorney and prepare for your court date. Give us a call when you run into trouble in Houston or surrounding areas. We’ve got you covered, no questions asked!

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