The U.S. has the largest prisoner population in the world, and Texas has more incarcerated people than any other state. As climate change continues to increase the severity, frequency and duration of heatwaves, approximately 160,000 people in Texas prisons — and those who work in these environments — are reported to have suffered in prisons without climate control. Intense physical coercion. A new study led by researchers at Brown University’s School of Public Health.
The study was published in JAMA Network Open This Wednesday, Nov. 2 study examines the relationship between heat exposure and risk of death in Texas prisons, focusing on how these risks differ between prisons with and without air conditioning.
The researchers analyzed data collected between 2001 and 2019, showing 271 people died from extreme heat during that period.
The researchers found that even a 1-degree increase above 85 degrees Fahrenheit was associated with a 0.7 percent increased risk of death per day.
The research team — which included academics from Harvard University, Boston University, and Texas Prison Community Advocates in addition to Brown — compared U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics data on Texas prison mortality with NASA The bureau’s temperature data was combined and a new epidemiological analysis was used to arrive at its findings. In the warmer months, about 13 percent of the fatality rate could be due to the extremes of not having air conditioning in Texas prison facilities, the team reported.
Notably, while an average of 14 people die each year from heat-related causes in Texas prisons without air conditioning, no heat-related deaths occur in climate-controlled prisons, says lead study author Julie S. Kaha said she received her Ph.D. Ph.D. in Epidemiology from Brown University in June 2022.
“Most prisons in Texas don’t have universal air conditioning,” Skarha said. “In these cases, we found a 30-fold increase in heat-related mortality compared with estimates of heat-related mortality in the general U.S. population.”
Study co-author Dr. David Dosa, associate professor of medicine, health services, policy and practice at Brown University, noted that heat is often a silent killer.
“We’ve seen similar situations in nursing homes where high temperatures are not reported on death certificates,” said Dosa, a licensed geriatrician with double appointments at Providence VA Medical Center and Rhode Island Hospital. “Only after we do these analyses will we be able to determine how much heat plays a role in someone’s death.”
The findings suggest that air conditioning policies in Texas prisons may be an important part of protecting the health of people living and working in these facilities, the researchers said.
Additional study authors include Josiah Rich and Dr. David Savitz from Brown, Amite Dominick from Texas Prison Community Advocate, Keith Spangler from Boston University and Antonella Zanobetti from Harvard University. The research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.