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Inmates Claim Temperatures In Arizona Prisons Are Above 100 Degrees

Arizona State Prison Complex - Florence
Arizona Department of Corrections
Arizona State Prison Complex - Florence.

Attorneys for inmates in two Arizona prison complexes say their clients are being subjected to inhumane conditions.

At a status hearing Thursday for the Parsons v. Ryan settlement, attorneys for the plaintiff prisoner class said they’ve been getting reports that temperatures are exceeding 100 degrees in the living and housing areas at the state prisons in Perryville and Florence.

Assistant Attorney General Lucy Rand said some air-conditioning units needed to be replaced but the state only had record of temperatures in the 90s.

Kirstin Eidenbach is an attorney for the plaintiffs. She recently toured the state prison in Lewis where she said inmates had similar complaints. She said many prison yards only have swamp coolers and the conditions are inhumane.

“If you can imagine being locked in sometimes a metal or a cinder block cell with basically soaking wet hot air being blown at you for hours and hours — it’s just an unacceptable way to house human beings,” Eidenbach said.

Eidenbach said the heat is especially troublesome for people taking psychotropic medication. “Particularly they need to be monitored because they’re at far greater risk of injury from the high temperatures than a prisoner who is not on psychotropic medicine,” she said.

The judge ordered the state to produce a list of prisoners taking psychotropic medications so attorneys can alert them to their risk of heat intolerance during the high temperatures.

Testimony from inmates in the privately run prison health-care system will be heard in court Friday.

Jimmy Jenkins is a senior field correspondent at KJZZ and a contributor to NPR’s Election 2020 and Criminal Justice station collaborations. His work has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, The Takeaway and NPR Newscasts.Originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, Jenkins has a B.S. in criminology from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.Much of his reporting has focused on the criminal justice system. Jenkins has reported on Tasers, body cameras, use of force, jail privatization, prison health care and the criminal contempt trial of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.