Intense heat raises the risk of violence in American prisons

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Advocates of prison reform argue that housing inmates in facilities without air conditioning violates the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments”

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LAST YEAR was a violent one in Mississippi’s prisons. There were 853 inmate-on-inmate assaults, a rise of 29% compared with 2019. Officials argue that much of the violence is gang-related—factions fighting over territory or contraband such as cellphones. Activists point out that punitive policies, shortages of staff and derelict facilities play a role, too. Another, and probably underestimated, factor may be the weather. Mississippi summers usually see average temperatures rise above 80℉ (26.

But measuring the influence of heat on violent behaviour is not an exact science. The studies have to account for variables that may skew results. A baseball player may find relief from the heat between innings in the team’s climate-controlled clubhouse. Warm weather also encourages people to spend time outdoors, increasing social interactions that could lead to violence. Other variables, such as income and reporting bias, must also be considered.

; in some cases the courts have sided with them. Many inmates suffer from health problems and illnesses, such as hypertension and diabetes, that extreme heat can exacerbate. In Texas the deaths of more than 13 inmates over the past decade due to heat exposure prompted lawsuits, some still pending, against the state.

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Air conditioning prisons, dropping bombs on people in other countries, all for American human rights.

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