California heat protections at risk from push to exclude prisons

Source(s): Context
  • Cost concerns cited as reason to exempt prisons, jails
  • Heat protection for workers seen lacking across US
  • Inmates and prison employees face particular risks

[...]

Workers in correctional facilities, whether staff such as nurses and security guards or incarcerated people doing maintenance or other jobs, frequently face sweltering conditions in poorly ventilated, decades-old buildings ill-prepared for extreme heat.

"(Often) all they have is swamp coolers and shop fans and when those things go out, it's not like they're like 'oh OK, you don't have to work anymore' - the work is expected to continue at all times," said Jeronimo Aguilar with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, an advocacy group for incarcerated people based in Oakland.

Aguilar and others want California to join a handful of states that have formally ended what critics say is an exception in the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery that allows for involuntary servitude as punishment for incarcerated populations.

"There's a direct correlation there ... (the notion that the) incarcerated population ... don't need to be treated as (humanely) as anybody else," he said.

The new heat protection rules would require employers to provide accessible drinking water and maintain one or more "cool-down areas" at all times while employees are present, among other measures.

[...]

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