Legal Aid Society

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Amid Heatwave, LAS Demands Protections for Incarcerated New Yorkers

The Legal Aid Society, in a recently issued letter, called for answers from the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) as to how the Department plans on protecting incarcerated New Yorkers from illness amid the heatwave plaguing New York City.

Legal Aid is demanding that DOC confirm that all heat-sensitive individuals in custody have been offered air-conditioned housing. At the July 19 Board of Correction hearing, DOC admitted that at least 66 heat-sensitive persons in custody had not been offered transfer to air-conditioned housing. The letter also urges the City to move all individuals confined to their cells for more than ten hours per day to air-conditioned units, and for the DOC to provide free access to cool showers and plentiful ice. Finally, since heat stroke can be fatal, the letter demands that correctional staff and health care staff engage in near-constant rounding in the correctional facilities to assess the presence of increased health risks.

“As this heatwave begins, it’s imperative that the City improve its historic ineptitude in following its heat protocols and protect incarcerated New Yorkers from heat-related illnesses,” said Mary Lynne Werlwas, Director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society. “People in custody don’t have access to cooling centers, and in past years, we’ve heard horror stories from clients who were deprived of basic means to stay safe during hot weather.”

Legal Aid further called for transparency from DOC, asking them to publicly release daily temperature readings from inside the jails, and a daily number of those housed in air-conditioned units.