RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – As the temperatures spiked earlier this week, reports from inmates, relatives and corrections officers about unbearable heat in Virginia prisons. Our sister-station, WRIC, has now uncovered new information contradicting what state officials first told us.
Many of the state’s prisons lack air conditioning. Earlier this summer, the Department Of Corrections had taken steps to purchase extra fans, ice machines and portable AC units, to keep inmates and workers safe.
WRIC 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, yet nothing for Augusta. When the lack of documents was questioned, WRIC was told they “did not have anything responsive to our request.”
In addition, an internal memo showed 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 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 WRIC 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, another request was submitted to visit a prison. Both Moran’s office and the DOC have yet to respond. Secretary Moran has told WRIC that fitting the old prisons with AC would be extremely costly in the millions of dollars.