Columbus Co Correctional is one of 10 NC prisons without air conditioning

Inmates describe the heat as “unbearable”
Updated: May. 30, 2019 at 6:07 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Hundreds of guards and inmates in North Carolina prisons without air conditioning say they’re suffering as the extreme heat wave hits the south.

Rhonda McMillian’s husband, Carl, is an inmate at the Columbus County Correctional Facility. He has told his wife the head has caused him to experience headaches, nausea, pouring sweat, dehydration and pain in his chest.

This week, the department of corrections confirmed they have seen a report of heat-related illness in North Carolina’s prisons. On Sunday, May 26, a correctional officer at the NC Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh became dehydrated and received medical attention.

“There’s a lot of health concerns, no way to cool off, especially inside the facility where the dorms [are]. It’s just fans, big industrial fans, maybe 16 and there’s nowhere for this air to go. It’s just hot air blowing on these inmates,” said McMillian.

She visits her husband once a week. He describes the heat conditions to her as unbearable.

“It’s heartbreaking to me because I can’t do anything," said McMillian. “As a wife, I don’t want anything to happen to my husband. I love him very much.”

North Carolina DPS communications officer John Bull says some of the state’s prisons date back to the 1920′s. With limited funds to fix and improve the state’s prison facilities, Bull says its a balancing act.

Columbus Correctional Institution is one of 10 prisons in the state with no air conditioning systems built in. There are no plans to update the facility with an AC unit.

Officials say they try their best to make everyone comfortable in high temperatures by running fans, watching the temperature, providing water and restricting outside work. McMillian said inmates will even ask staff to dim the lights to make it a little cooler.

“Basically, they’re sweating to death. Even going to the restroom is a problem because they’re constantly pouring sweat and that’ll lead to dehydration," said McMillian. "[What] the inmates are really gong through, it’s a really inhumane situation.”

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