Hurricane Harvey descended heavily on southeast Texas in late August. The heavy storms prompted thousands of people to evacuate to safer sites. Prison inmates in many facilities were moved to better facilities in other parts of the state.
But some prisoners were unlucky enough to be kept inside their cells as the catastrophic flooding raged.
About 3,000 inmates inside Stiles Unit at a Texas state prison close to Beaumont were not evacuated in the face of Hurricane Harvey. These men feared for their lives as Harvey raged in southeast Texas.
They knew it was a matter of time before they died if their prison facility was hit. Harvey spared Stiles Unit, but inside conditions became very worse and sickening for several inmates.
“Feces and Urine Built Up and the Smell Was Horrible In the Cell,” An Inmate Wrote
Fifty-five-year-old David Hartvikson wrote to Sloan Rucker, a prison pen-pal living in Texas of the prison conditions during Harvey. According to him, the prison toilets could not be flushed since the staff did not pump any water.
Hartvikson wrote in his four-page letter to Rucker:
“Feces and urine built up and the smell was horrible in the cell.
The water at the prison was shut off without notice and the ceilings in our cells started leaking, causing dirty water to pool up on our floors.”
Prison reform groups condemned the dangers inmates were subjected to during the storm. According to legal experts, prison inmates should be housed in facilities where their safety can be reasonably assured.
But this may not have been the case at Stiles Unit during Hurricane Harvey.
Texas Criminal Justice Department Denies the Reports
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Hartvikson was not done yet. He wrote:
“They left us locked in an 8 by 12 foot cell for several days with feces and urine piling up in our toilets.
Why weren’t arrangements for food, water, toilets, and things of that nature made for the inmates in the days leading up to the storm?”