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Articles by Candice Bernd

"No Toilet, No Ventilation": Prisoners Describe Horrific Conditions in Harvey's Flood Zone

by Candice Bernd, Truthout

This story is the sixth piece in "America's Toxic Prisons," an investigative, collaborative series between Truthout and Earth Island Journal. This series dives deeply into the intersection between mass incarceration and environmental justice.

A set of emails obtained by Truthout and Earth Island Journal describe nightmarish conditions inside the federal prison complex in Beaumont, Texas, after flooding last week cut off power -- including air-conditioning -- and the water supply. The emails were sent via Corrlinks, an email system used by federal prisoners.

The emails reveal morbid conditions endured by prisoners living under lockdown after Hurricane Harvey, then downgraded to a tropical depression, dropped 35 inches of rain on the area. Truthout redacted identifying information due to the danger of retaliation by prison officials. Since the storm, the prisoners have been limited to five emails and five short phone calls per person for the month.

Multiple prisoners and their relatives detailed how the lack of running water caused some men to defecate in bags, and others to drink contaminated toilet water. Many say they have seen men lose consciousness in the units, succumbing to the extreme heat and putrid fumes wafting through the cellblocks from bags of ...

Forced to Endure Extreme Heat, Prisoners are Casualties of Texas’ Climate Denial, Documents Show

by Candice Bernd, Truthout

On a spring day in May, temperatures in Dallas, Texas were already in the 90s. Sunlight glinted off the barbed wire perimeter outside the Hutchins State Jail, located just a mile down the road from Hutchins High School. The first blooms of Castilleja, colloquially known here as “prairie fire,” seemed to set a field across from the prison ablaze.

It was hot outside, but it’s nothing compared to the temperatures inside the Hutchins Unit, one of 79 state-run prison units still lacking air-conditioning in its cellblocks in 2017. Even those temperatures, though, still pale further in comparison with the extreme summer heat wave that broiled the jail on July 28, 2011, pushing the heat index up to about 150 degrees in the cellblocks, according to the state’s own records, and transforming the jail into an oven that slowly baked Hutchins prisoner Larry McCollum alive.

McCollum, a 58-year-old cab driver from the Waco area, was found having convulsions in his top bunk. He was taken to Dallas’ Parkland Hospital, where his body temperature was measured at 109.4 degrees. McCollum, who was incarcerated for writing a bad check, had recently begun serving his 11-month sentence, and ...


 

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