When things get hot, does air-conditioning become a basic human right?

If you do not follow Marshall Shepherd on Twitter (@Dr.Shepherd2013), you should.

Shepherd is a professor of meteorology at the University of Georgia (with NASA credentials, too). He is also a contributing writer for Forbes magazine, and turns regular posts on the topic of global warming and its impact.

Time and again, he returns to the fact that climate change often requires policy change. And policy change is, well, politics.

On Sunday morning, Shepherd wrote of video coming out of St. Louis, in which inmates in an unair-conditioned city jail – a place where defendants who can’t make bail await trial — screamed for help. The outside temperature was 108 degrees. It was hotter inside. Many, acknowledged Shepherd, might argue that such treatment is deserved:

I will not argue that point, but I will argue that oppressive heat in poorly ventilated buildings is “cruel and unusual” punishment. More interestingly, many studies show that heat increases aggression, which ultimately could make the security in the prison more of a challenge…

Shepherd pointed to this 2016 AJC article noting an increase in violence within Georgia’s state prisons. One of his UGA colleagues, sociologist Sarah Shannon, suggests that heat could be a factor. More from Shepherd:

A body of studies have shown that heat and climate change is coupled to aggression and violence. A 2016 study found that for every degree Celsius increase in annualized temperature, there was a 6% increase in homicides in their 57-country sample.

Shepherd writes that, with thick concrete walls surrounded by asphalt, prisons could generating temperature conditions similar to urban heat islands:

Prisons may harbor amplified climate-heat vulnerability for several reasons. Many inmates may already have pre-existing medical conditions. A significant percentage of that population is likely over 50 years of age as well.

In an era of climbing temperatures – the first six months of 2017 were the second-hottest on record – Shepherd has the germ of an interesting argument here that extends well beyond prisons and jails, and drives deep into Atlanta and its suburbs.

The invention and spread of air-conditioning, it is well understood, was the kick-starter for the economic boom that lifted the South in the 1960s and beyond. We may soon find ourselves discussing whether access to air-conditioning qualifies as a basic human right, essential to survival in the South.

***

On Twitter this morning, President Donald Trump refers to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his own appointee, as ‘beleaguered.”

That’s a word that you use when you want to see a man gone.

***

According to the Wall Street Journal, prior to his Sunday school class in Plains, Ga., former President Jimmy Carter said he “believed the U.S. would in time adopt a fully government-run health insurance system, or ‘Medicare for all.’”

***

If you’re a conservative interested in foreign policy, take a look at this piece by James Kirchick of the Foreign Policy Institute. The headline: “How the GOP Became the Party of Putin.” From Politico:

What I never expected was that the Republican Party—which once stood for a muscular, moralistic approach to the world, and which helped bring down the Soviet Union—would become a willing accomplice of what the previous Republican presidential nominee rightly called our No. 1 geopolitical foe: Vladimir Putin’s Russia. My message for today’s GOP is to paraphrase Barack Obama when he mocked Romney for saying precisely that: 2012 called—it wants its foreign policy back.

***

The Great Reveal will happen today, according to the Marietta Daily Journal:

The identity of a mystery film company seeking a 10-year tax abatement and $35 million dollars in bonds will be revealed this morning at the Development Authority of Cobb County’s 11 a.m. meeting.

 

Cobb Board of Education members were all ears Thursday afternoon when they gave their nod of approval to “Project Meatloaf,” the name given to the secret production company looking to use the bonds to refinance a 70-passenger private jet it would house in a hangar at Cobb County International Airport-McCollum Field.

***

The head of the Georgia NAACP resigned from his post over the weekend, our colleague Ernie Suggs reports, presumably to run for elective office.

Francys Johnson, a civil rights attorney and pastor from Statesboro, may challenge Augusta-area U.S. Rep. Rick Allen in 2018. Per Suggs:

In resigning from the NAACP at the 108th National Convention in Baltimore, he stopped short of making an announcement and called the end of his 30 years in the organization an emotional moment.

 

…Although Johnson hasn’t confirmed that he is running for Congress, NAACP rules require officers to step down to run for public office. 

Allen upset Democratic incumbent John Barrow back in 2014. He cruised to reelection last year against token Democratic opposition.

Reader Comments 0

410 comments
Steve Britt
Steve Britt

No. Prison's are to comfortable. Prison's should be turned into a full blown sweatshop. All time should be hard time. 5 AM wake up and roll call. And work till dark and bedtime roll call. It's not a country club. It's jail. You are not their to be cared for. You are there as a deterrent to from your crimes. Turning prisons into country clubs is the most stupid liberal idea ever.

Shawn Mikell
Shawn Mikell

No, I'm from the south and I work outside. I endure all the elements if you want A/C then buy it. But you can survive with out it, people have done it for thousands of years

Brian Secondd
Brian Secondd

The Fort Stewart National Guard barravks are horrible. AirCondition barely works, roaches in showers, cold water. Jail has better condition than those barracks.

Stephen Chabot
Stephen Chabot

no. I live in Savannah It gets hot has hell here. Deal with it or save up and get ac. You don't have the right to some thing another person has worked for.

Francene Hammett Taylor
Francene Hammett Taylor

it affects their health and endangers their life - yes, AC is necessary in southern prisons. The buildings don't have adequate ventilation for fresh air so the heat inside cannot dissipate

Becky Fly
Becky Fly

Yes. People have died of heat stroke in prisons. They were tried in a court of law and the sentence was not death.

Ron LaMar
Ron LaMar

I thought when you go to prison your lose your rights ???

Jim McDonald
Jim McDonald

I grew up without it. I'm sure they will adjust.

Jay Ansley
Jay Ansley

No- I grew up in CT where the temps got up in the 90's during the summer and we had no air conditioning.........MPA

Stacy Latimer
Stacy Latimer

Y'all don't have Ga humidity and 100+ degree weather.

Michael Whitfield
Michael Whitfield

Yea ppl complain all the time but humidity is the worse. I grew up in GA during the summer with a box fan in the window bc cheap parents

Dave Loomis
Dave Loomis

Sheriff Joe of Arizona houses offenders in army tents no AC no heat.

Sandra Watkins
Sandra Watkins

People live all over the world without AC. However I would think people would be in a better mood if not miserably hot. Maybe it's a deterrent to have no AC. I don't know

Corey Brown
Corey Brown

Sadly, many of you would not say the same thing about providing AC for animals in an animal shelter. You would actually call it "inhumane" at the humane society. Where's the humanity for the actual humans?

Pamela Danzis
Pamela Danzis

The guards are not criminals and should have air.

Tiffany Reid
Tiffany Reid

Just responding to "liberal" being used as a derogatory word. Please refer to your dictionary. Just ask google. Your eyes may be opened. Almost all of us are liberal due to the fact that life is change. Air that is conditioned is not a right. For me it's a necessity but I provide it. I'm a liberal also.

Craig Daniels
Craig Daniels

Ask the inmates at Angola prison in Louisiana. They don't have it either. It's a luxury that has to be paid for.

Linda Dasher
Linda Dasher

No! I was raised without it, and I am 74. I'm proof that it is not necessary. By the way, I have always lived a few miles from the Florida Line. It is always sweltering here in the Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Irena Zajicek
Irena Zajicek

I dont now.Iff i don't pay my electric bill my a/c is not working and i pay extra for needy people.

Dennis T Reid
Dennis T Reid

no- I don't have AC at home, and no one is trying to put it in for me

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Eleanor Randolph
Eleanor Randolph

AC is a luxury only those who can afford it can have it if you can't afford it make a fan out of a paper plate

Eleanor Randolph
Eleanor Randolph

No AC is nice makes you feel good but I grew up in Massachusetts way back and we never had AC was called open your window sleep with just a sheet on at times even took that off the good old days

Jeri Henson Dies
Jeri Henson Dies

Do we allow state-sponsored torture? That is the question.

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James Bell
James Bell

I'm not sure about a human right. What temperature is a violation? But what does the state have to gain by having pissed off inmates to deal with? Cells need airflow. We have inmates who lay asphalt 6-8 hours a day. How hot is that?

Tammy Brookover Jay
Tammy Brookover Jay

A lot of good hard working people have never had air conditioning. That being said, they are not living in a building with few windows and few fans. I do not believe that a/c should be required...but enough fans to keep air moving and the people cooler should be common sense. Maintaining a temp that is not harmful is mandatory. If that temp is 85 degrees, so be it.

Guynella Seabolt Tuten
Guynella Seabolt Tuten

One of few post that has a share wounder why Looks like aprision or correctionsplace So should people have air condition well let me put it this way A lot of people grew up with out it it is a luxury many struggle to pay for a lot work in heat cold so should people that have broke the law have the luxury of being cool while others work in heat to pay for it for them Give them ahand fan plenty of cool water sweat rag Don't want anyone abused But u work for luxuries

John E Hurley
John E Hurley

Guess it really depends what you believe prison is for. If it is between air conditioning for schools versus prisons, well that seems intuitive. However, if it is a choice for prison safety...that seems to also be intuitive. If you are in a closed environment with a lot of bodies temperatures are going to climb well above 80 even in temperate areas during summer. How hot is too hot?

Phil Kranz
Phil Kranz

Then theyll kill eachother and the taxpayers wont have to worry about them. Sounds like a win-win

Brett Lee
Brett Lee

My Friend just told me what about kids in public schools just cause they were bad and got detention should we cut AC to them too so they can suffer... His school was actually sued and forced the school building to be rebuilt to support AC when a friend of his in school just had a heat stroke for being in detention in a trailer after school in 97F btw in the trailer it was regularly 10-15 degrees hotter... They don't supply water nor bathroom breaks during detention... So what makes our youth different from the practices of older adults... Another great point... It yes is inhumane if you don't support ventilation at dangerous temp... By ventilation I mean require extreme circulation not just a window for an entire pod of people recreating an oven... My friend says his post in Iraq even has fans that shoot mist and is gathering a picture for me soon to those who think our military faces these issues...

Phil Kranz
Phil Kranz

My high school didnt have ac and we werent allowed to open the windows. Plus we had a dress code. Long sleeve shirts and sleeves had to be cuffed. Guess what snowflake, not one person died. You and your worthless generation are a bunch of spoiled little brats.

Brett Lee
Brett Lee

Frontier high school in Ohio had this happen... I am not some snowflake as most can be... And if you had 100 degrees outside and long clothes forced and indoors windows shut no one ever had a heat stroke I call bs... You just spoiled and can't help but condone innocence in jailed even being in unlivable conditions... Cops can break your windows for a dog its so unfair but if I want ac for inmates I'm a snowflake lmao OK ignorance is bliss to you clearly moron...