Responding to Extreme Heat Conditions

UPDATED July 11 and July 18

Matir Asurim learned, from inside Florida’s Death Row, that extreme heat conditions are endangering incarcerated people and staff alike. Even “normal” summer temperatures can be damaging to health without cooling measures. The aging UCI facility is not providing adequate cooling to protect the health of those inside. This document includes details about conditions and specific, urgent improvements needed. It also contains sample language for contacting those in power. Below are contacts and images for Florida’s #CoolTheRow campaign and some specific demands. An additional letter asks Jewish individuals and organizations to join the campaign.

Conditions are also deadly in Texas — inmates die in stifling Texas prisons (Texas Tribune, June 2023). And heat is an basic health issue in many locations during summer months. See report on prisons across US (Grist, March 2023) and “Few rules address extreme heat problems” (NPR, August 2022).

Please check on conditions of incarcerated people near you and conditions for Matir Asurim pen pals. Let us know of any other solidarity actions underway.

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JEWISH VALUES call us to protect the vulnerable, advocate for justice, and safeguard the sanctity of human life.

Cool the Row crafted a letter reflecting Jewish values to encourage greater participation in this campaign. Please edit this DRAFT to suit and share with Jews and Jewish organizations.

SERIOUS ATTENTION needed. Early responses from Fl DOC officials reported regular visits to UCI and “no complaints” concerning heat on the same days that inmates reported oppressive heat affecting health and well-being. They also reported addition of a fan in the day room — which is progress of a kind but, per reports from inside, pops the electrical circuit, cutting power to smaller fans in nearby individual cells. Attention to the basic safety of staff, National Guards, and inmates requires serious attention and consultation with all concerned. Any heat measurements must include some taken at the hottest part of the day, and explore conditions in cells and public spaces.

As of July 18, conditions were still dangerously hot and contributing to lack of sleep, which has additional consequences for physical health and mental well-being. Immediate cooling measures and plans for longer-term solutions are still needed.

Florida #CoolTheRow Action

Here are specific demands to raise with Florida Department of Corrections:

  • Repair the defective shading devices in the yards to provide adequate relief from the sun and reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses.
  • Implement temporary relief measures, such as daily distribution of ice to inmates, which can help alleviate the extreme temperatures within their cells. Simple and cost-effective solutions, such as placing frozen water bottles in front of fans, could provide some immediate relief while awaiting long-term solutions.
  • Consider involving the Death Row population in the pilot program currently installed at Lowell Correctional Institution, utilizing portable AC Units (Swamp coolers) to regulate the extreme temperatures. The families of the inmates are willing to contribute financially towards the installation of such devices, and numerous organizations fighting against the death penalty will support this initiative.

Here are FL DOC officials to contact. See sample letter regarding extreme heat for more background.

The #CoolTheRow campaign also shared contacts for Florida Legislators. Campaign organizers believe these legislators are concerned about prison justice and willing to hear from people who are not their constituents.

Facebook sample messages:

🔥 Let’s stand together to #CoolTheRow! Share this powerful visual and join the movement for justice and compassion on Florida’s Death Row. Together, we can make a difference! 🌡️❤️#CoolTheRow

📣 Time to take action! Spread the message far and wide. Share this impactful image and let’s demand change for those facing extreme heat on Florida’s Death Row. #CoolTheRow

🌬️ Heat doesn’t discriminate. Inmates, correctional officers, and National Guards are all at risk. Share this visual, raise awareness, and fight for safer conditions. Join the #CoolTheRow campaign now!

Twitter sample messages:

🔥 Join the movement, save lives! Let’s #CoolTheRow in Florida’s Death Row! Share this powerful image and demand action for those at risk of lethal heat. Together, we can make a difference! 🌡️❤️

📣 It’s time to raise our voices! Share this impactful visual and let’s stand up for justice on Florida’s Death Row. Heat is lethal, and we must fight for change. #CoolTheRow

🌬️ No one should suffer in the scorching heat, not inmates, not correctional officers, not National Guards. Spread this image, raise awareness, and join the #CoolTheRow campaign for a safer future.

Images to use on social media:

Alt Text for images:

CoolTheRow#3: Prescription bottles and pills with words: “Beating the Lethal Heat — Protecting vulnerable lives on Florida’s death row. Standing up for the Medically Vulnerable on Florida’s Death row. Let’s fight against deadly death, protect lives, and uphold human dignity! Embrace humanity, reject injustice, and cool the lethal flames!” #CoolTheRow

CoolTheRow#4: Image of prison cells with thermometer and “Sweating Away Justice” 74% of Florida’s death row inmates are over 50. Facing an increased risk of heat stroke or death. Temperatures exceeding 90 F, even 100 F, for 3 months: July, August, September. It’s time to cool the flames of injustice! #CoolTheRow

CoolTheRow: Image of sweaty face with thermometer and “Saving lives, fighting heat.” Protect Florida’s death row inmatesI Protect Florida’s death row inmates. With over 90 F, even 100 F, scorching summers lasting three month, we must act now. Reduce the heat, preserve human dignity! #CoolTheRow

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