Subjecting prisoners to extreme weather conditions constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.” The Eighth Amendment of the U.S constitution constrains brutal and unusual punishments, immoderate fines, and bails (Terwiel 2). Cruel and unusual punishments feature inhumane treatment in prisons that impose severe suffering and harm on the inmates. States that are reluctant to install air conditioning in prisons subject inmates to unbearable and risky conditions. During summers or winter, the temperature may get extremely high or low, which, if unregulated, are lethal to the health (Terwiel 3). For instance, prolonged stay in high-temperature areas is a risk factor for dehydration and heat stroke. Some inmates have health conditions such as high blood pressure, making them very vulnerable to heat-related diseases. Since extreme weather conditions in the U.S. are predictable and are associated with health risks, failure to provide air conditioning is a deliberately cruel and unusual punishment. Lack of air conditioning in prisons violates the Eighth Amendment, which protects inmates from cruel and unusual punishment.
However, some states, such as Louisiana and Texas, do not provide air conditioning. Blinder describes why some states oppose air conditioning in the way of quotes. First, the Texas Prison Museum director said, “For the last 20 years of my life, I lived in a house with no air-conditioning” (Blinder par 9). Second, the Supreme Court declares that “the Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons” (Blinder par 13). The quotes imply that air conditioning is a luxury, not a basic need since some people live without them, and installing them in prisons is not constitutionally mandated. In Blinder (16), the chief sheriff’s deputy said, “We don’t want to make it really comfortable for them because we don’t want them to want to come back,” insinuating that prisons should be tough to rehabilitate offenders. Opponents of prison air conditioning argue that it provides comfort, whereas prisons should be brutal to deter crime.
Blinder, Alan. “In U.S. Jails, a Constitutional Clash over Air-Conditioning.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2016.
Terwiel, Anna. “What is the Problem with High Prison Temperatures? From the Threat to Health to the Right to Comfort.” New Political Science 40.1 (2018): 70-83. Web.