In US Heatwave Turns Texas Prisons into 'Brick Ovens.

In US Heatwave Turns Texas Prisons into 'Brick Ovens.

In recent weeks, 35-year-old Martire had four heat-related health episodes at Estelle Prison in Huntsville, where he has served 16 years.

I just passed out, the medical staff refused to see me and I don’t know what to do," he told his family by phone. They called prison administrators to seek help.

When inmates sense that someone has passed out in a nearby cell, they yell to attract a guard’s attention, but staff shortages often mean delays, Martire said.

The stricken inmate is then taken to an administrative area of the jail that does have air conditioning for so-called “respite." Prisoners try to linger as long as possible.

And with no air conditioning in most prisons, when outside temperatures exceed 40ºC 104 Fahrenheit it can feel even hotter inside the cells.

Some prisoners sabotage the toilets in their cells to make the water overflow and wet the floor, which they then sleep on.

Others wet their clothes to try to stay cool, according to convicts, ex-convicts and family members who spoke to media.

In concrete, brick and metal penitentiaries, industrial fans churn warm vapor without really cooling the air.

On the afternoon of July 4, as Americans were celebrating the country’s independence with elaborate fireworks displays, a prisoner named Joseph Martire passed out in his cell in Texas, amid the excessive heat that has been swamping much of the southern United States in recent days.