The winter storm that has ravaged much of Texas and other southern states is impacting all people, including those incarcerated in jail.
“We’re in her freezing to death and starving,” Finis Prendergast, a 42-year-old veteran who’s been incarcerated in a Harris County jail for 29 months told the outlet.
Prendergast said power went out Monday afternoon (February 15) around 2 p.m. And while there were generators that turned on after the power went out, electricity trickled into the facility onto a limited basis. Most of the dorms were left in the dark, and without working electrical outlets.
Prendergast also reported that “cool air” has been coming through air vents and people in the jail weren’t given food Monday night (February 15).
Nigel Patrick, a 37-year-old at the same facility confirmed Prendergast’s account and also shared that people weren’t given extra blankets to keep warm against the below freezing temperatures.
On Tuesday (February 16), officers in the facility handed out 16-ounce water bottles that people are to use for everything from brushing their teeth to washing their hands. Additionally, no running water has left toilets overrun.
“It’s unbearable,” Patrick told the outlet and advocates with the Texas Jail Project.
The Harris County Sheriff’s office posted to Twitter in response to questions about conditions.
In the United States, not only are jail populations disproportionately made up of Black people, most people in jail are being held pretrial, many because they can’t pay bail.
The pandemic has also spread through jails and prisons and surrounding communities across the country.
With this storm and power outages, some people at Harris County jails received the vaccine on Wednesday (February 17) because vials were on the brink of going bad.
Other jail systems around the state are reporting similar conditions as Harris County, putting advocacy groups on alert for raising awareness and getting people help.
“This storm has really brought out some of the issues they have in the prison system,” Tracy Williams, policy director at the Texas Inmate Families Association said. “It speaks to some much needed change.”
With more freezing temperatures ahead, and few answers given for when power and running water may be restored, many are bracing themselves for what’s to come.
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