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 ...