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Activists, lawmakers raise awareness of inmate living conditions

todayJuly 22, 2022

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Air conditioning. It may be hard to imagine your life without it, especially here in Florida in the thick of summer.


What You Need To Know

  • The Department of Corrections says its newer facilities do have air conditioning, but many of Florida’s current state prisons were designed before A/C was commonplace and don’t have it

  • Those gathered at Lake Eola said it’s cruel and unusual punishment to force prisoners to live without air conditioning 

  • Anne Salamone also wants to see the department ensure all inmates have access to cold, running water

But it’s a reality for a majority of the 80,000 people incarcerated in Florida prison facilities who don’t have air conditioning in their dorms.

Spectrum News 13’s Watchdog reporter Molly Duerig was at Lake Eola on Saturday, where activists and lawmakers gathered to raise awareness of inmates’ living conditions. 

People there said it’s cruel and unusual punishment to force prisoners to live without air conditioning. 

The Department of Corrections says its newer facilities do have air conditioning, but many of Florida’s current state prisons were designed before A/C was commonplace and don’t have it.

Those gathered at Lake Eola said it’s cruel and unusual punishment to force prisoners to live without air conditioning.

The department says while general inmates have access to air conditioning in certain parts of their facilities, like medical and administrative buildings, only 24 percent of their housing units are air conditioned.

Anne Salamone was one of several people pushing for better conditions for prisoners. Her son has been incarcerated for two years. (Molly Duerig/Spectrum News 13)

“To understand that 76% of our people, so that’s gonna be 60,000 some people, are caged in a room? With no air conditioning? And with very little ventilation? It is inhumane, it is unjust,” said Ann Salamone, who son is incarcerated in Florida.

Salamone was one of several people pushing for better conditions for prisoners.

Her son has been incarcerated for two years. She says he used to live in a dorm without air conditioning, with between 80 and 85 other men. 

While Salamone says there were six to eight ventilation fans in that dorm, only one of them worked.

And Salamone said fixing those ventilation fans currently in Florida prisons is the first step she thinks the Department of Corrections could take to improve living conditions for inmates.

She also wants to see the department ensure all inmates have access to cold, running water and consider bringing in portable air conditioning units that run on water evaporation, as a more affordable solution.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who is running for governor, sent Spectrum News 13 a statement on Saturday that said: “Our criminal justice system needs to focus on restoration and rehabilitation, and we cannot achieve that by subjecting prisoners to inhumane living conditions. No one should spend time in a Florida prison without water, without food, and without visitation. As Governor, I will treat Floridians with decency and compassion, that includes those who are righting their wrongs by paying their debt to society.”

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