It’s that time of the year again, when the Texas sun shows no mercy on the parched land or the people who inhabit it.We will soon begin counting the number of 100-degree days and wondering if we can endure the scorching heat, all the while praying for September’s speedy arrival.This also is the time when some of us turn our attention to a group of people who suffer the heat more than you can imagine, as they are confined in places that are much hotter inside than the temperature is on the outside. I’m talking about those men and women locked up in most of the state’s 111 prisons, which are not air-conditioned, contrary to popular belief. It’s been reported that temperatures in the chow halls and living areas can reach 130 degrees. Prisoners who have the support of family or friends can buy a fan from the system for $20. But there are thousands of indigent inmates who don’t have enough money in the Inmate Trust Fund to purchase anything, much less a fan.Texas Citizens for the Rehabilitation of Errants (TX-CURE) has been providing fans for indigent prisoners for the past 13 years and, sadly, the group never has had enough funding to help everyone who requests it.The way it works is that inmates must obtain a Trust Fund Inquiry form from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Inmate Trust Fund (Box 60, Huntsville, TX 77342) and submit it to TX-CURE with a request for a free fan. The organization has to verify that the prisoners are indigent, having $5 or less in their trust fund account during the past six months.Once inmates are declared indigent, TX-CURE compiles a list, submits it to officials in Huntsville with a check to pay for their fans. The TDCJ then notifies the commissaries where the prisoners are located that they have credit for a fan purchase.“Last year, we provided almost 600 free fans to indigent inmates,” said Joan Covici, a TX-CURE volunteer. “Our goal is 800 fans for this summer, which promises to be one of our hottest.”Since its inception, the project has bought more than 6,000 fans for Texas prisoners, Executive Director Michael Jewell said.Jewell and Covici note that warden offices, a few medical units and most visiting rooms in the prison system are air-conditioned, “but prisoners are kept in cells and dormitories without adequate circulation and no air conditioning.”They say the fans save lives because high temperatures can lead to deaths of both inmates and officers. There is a marked increase in illnesses, along with the costs for medical treatment, as the heat rises. The fan project is a worthy program that I’ve supported since it was established by two longtime TX-CURE volunteers, Kenneth and Lois Robison of Burleson. Their son, Larry Robison, was executed in 2000.The project was run for the past three years by hardworking Burleson resident Dorothy Deen, who retired this year. Star-Telegram readers have been generous with their financial support as well, and for that I am most grateful. I can assure you the inmates who benefited from that generosity are also thankful.TX-CURE ( www.texascure.org), which receives 40 to 50 requests a week, needs your help again, with whatever you can afford to contribute. Officials say $100 will buy five fans; $1,000 buys 50.
Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. 817-390-7775 Twitter: @BobRaySanders