Summer heat in US prisons has become a major issue, with facilities in states like Texas not providing air conditioning. California facilities are typically equipped with air conditioning, and CDCR even has guidelines on when it must be turned on. Despite this, incarcerated women firefighters returning to Chowchilla prison from duty a month ago found themselves stuck in a sweltering hot COVID19 quarantine building with others arriving from county jails all over California, and little air circulation. Incarcerated workers described the heat as being over 90 degrees inside the building, with the lack of air conditioning worsening the risk of both dehydration and COVID19.
When Sacramento IWOC (Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee) got word of this, we put out a call to action within 24 hours to email the warden about the situation. Within 3 hours of the call to action being posted, we got word that the AC had been turned on. Our inside members were incredibly grateful, and so are we on the outside for the community’s participation in this distributed action.
These women put their lives on the line to protect Californians from the impacts of climate breakdown, and are paid less than a tenth of the minimum wage. It is incredibly meaningful that people stood up to protect them from dangerous heat, just as they do for us.
We are honored to have these brave women in our union. No social movement for climate justice, racial justice, economic justice, or any other kind of justice is complete without them. Regardless of any past misdeeds, they are heroes in the struggle against climate catastrophe. Not only for them, but for all of us, overcoming traumatic pasts is at the heart of the collective fight for a better future.