Mary Lou James, the mother of Kenneth Wayne James, 52, who was found in his cell with a body temperature of 108 degrees.
TEXAS CURE FAN PROGRAM
To prisoners within the Texas Department of Corrections owning, or not owning, a fan can mean the difference between life or death. In 2011 eleven prisoners died from heat related causes. In June of 2012 Scott Medlock and the Texas Civil Rights Project filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the prison system on behalf of the family of Larry Gene McCollum, who died of a heatstroke at the Hutchins State Jail. What began as a one year jail sentence became the death penalty. When McCollum entered the jail, Medlock said, officers welcomed him with the phrase "Welcome to hell," an ominous metaphor that proved to become a virtual truth.
There are thousands of Texas prisoners who have no money in their Trust Fund accounts. These inmates are referred to as "Indigents." Prisoners who do have money are allowed to go to the commissary once per week and purchase toiletries, foodstuffs, ice cream and soda pop, etc. Indigents never enjoy a bite of ice cream or a sip of soda pop, unless a buddy with funds shares with them. Prisoners with funds may also buy electric fans.
Because of the murderously hot Texas summers, fans are one of the most prized possessions a prisoner can own. At most of the 107 prison units it is common for summer temperatures to reach 102-105 degrees, causing inside temperatures to soar to as high as 130 degrees. Citizens only hear of the heat problem when prisoners die from heat-related causes, but CURE members who correspond with prisoners on a regular basis hear the "rest of the story."
Even prisoners who have fans do not always find respite from the relentless heat. One prisoner wrote, "When I return to the dorm after work and turn on my fan, it's so hot it's like sitting in front of a hairdryer." Those who suffer the most are prisoners with medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems. A diabetic prisoner wrote, "When I go to bed at night I feel like a chicken roasting in an oven:I fall to seep sweating and wake up drenched. I'm so weak it's all I can do to get up and pee."
It's always heartwarming to hear from indigent inmates who have just received their free Texas CURE fans.
"Man, I can't begin to tell ya'll how good it feels to have this new fan! I haven't felt this happy since I received my first bicycle for xmas when I was 9 years old. Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"Just a quick note to share with you guys what I just saw. Ol' man Johnson, the guy I helped put in his request for a CURE fan, just came back from the store [commissary] with his new fan. You should have seen the smile on his face! When he got to his cubicle [dormitory space where prisoners are housed] he lifted the fan over his head for all to see and turned in a full circle, as if to say, "Hey, ya'll, look what I got!" I'm 46 years old, and sort of hate to confess this, but the scene brought tears to my eyes."
You can help bring joy to an indigent prisoner by donating $20.00, the price of a fan, to the Texas CURE Fan Program today. Money donated on this page is used only for fans. Texas CURE is a 501 (C3) nonprofit organization. Donations are tax deductible. Since our inception we have purchased 6000 fans for indigent Texas prisoners, 570 last year. Our goal for 2013 is 1000 fans. Please help.
Michael W. Jewell
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