As the temperatures spiked earlier this week, 8News continued to hear from inmates, relatives and corrections officers about unbearable heat in Virginia prisons. 8News has now uncovered new information contradicting what state officials first told us.
Many of the state’s prisons lack air conditioning. Earlier this summer, 8News was told the Department Of Corrections had taken steps to purchase extra fans, ice machines and portable AC units, to keep inmates and workers safe. Yet, 8News found that’s not all true.
8News filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all purchases orders, invoices and receipts for the cooling equipment at the three prisons we got the most concerns about: Nottoway, Buckingham and Augusta Correctional Centers.
While we can see industrial grade fans, water coolers, window air conditioners and ice machines were purchased at Nottoway and Buckingham prisons, 8News found nothing for Augusta. When 8News questioned the lack of documents, we were told they “did not have anything responsive to our request.”
In addition, an internal memo shared with 8News shows the fans inmates are supposed to be able to purchase for their cells have been discontinued and are no longer available.
Off camera this past July, Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran discussed with 8News about organizing a media tour of a prison so reporters could see how DOC had prepared for the heat.
However, during a hot spell shortly after that 8News was told “the weather was cooler” and Moran did “not currently have plans for a visit to a correctional facility without AC.”
During a spike in temperatures this week, 8News put in another request to visit a prison. Both Moran’s office and the DOC have yet to respond. Secretary Moran has told 8News fitting the old prisons with AC would be extremely costly in the millions of dollars.
A week after our story aired a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections told 8News Augusta made no new purchases because the prison already had what it needed. We were told in an email:
” In 2013, Augusta purchased 25 ice machines, so each pod already had a functioning ice machine for use this summer. In addition to the ice machines, extra ice chests are put in each housing unit building during the summer. The facility has 80 wall-mounted fans, and of 1325 offenders, 1010 have individual fans. Every pod has air circulators (in the duct work).
There were no emergency medical transports out of the facility in July or August. There were four heat-related offender grievances filed (again, out of 1325 offenders).”