Temperatures are returning to normal in Louisville’s jail, after reports of inmates coping with near-freezing temperatures elicited a response from the city’s department of corrections.
Steve Durham, an assistant director for Louisville Metro’s Department of Corrections, said temperatures averaged at 58 degrees in the jail when they were measured on Tuesday. But he acknowledged that temperatures in one area in particular above the Hall of Justice were measured in the 40s.
Durham said the temperatures averaged around 70 degrees as of Wednesday, and that work to fix the heating systems continues.
“Temperatures are rising and work is in progress to stabilize all temperatures. Officers are paying close attention and have been providing inmates extra blankets,” Durham said in an email. “Our partners at Metro Facilities are continuously monitoring the temperature control systems.”
Earlier this week, a Facebook post said the jail’s heating, cooling and air conditioning system was broken, forcing inmates to use hot water bottles and extra blankets to keep warm. Durham clarified the systems were malfunctioning, but said the systems were old and often need repairs.
In an interview Tuesday, civil rights lawyer Greg Belzley equated the conditions to torture, and said inmates could have a viable lawsuit against the jail.
“Regardless of what the situation is, what the cause of it is, if inmates in the Louisville jail right now are experiencing prolonged exposure to near-freezing temperatures, that’s just simply unacceptable,” he said. “I think it’s an embarrassment, and I think any sentient human being with a lick of human principle would regard it as embarrassing, and an embarrassment to the community and to the government.”
Durham suggested a new jail would be a viable fix for the issue, estimating the department has spent more than $300,000 on repairs to the heating system since 2016. Chris Poynter, a spokesperson for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, said a new jail is unlikely and could cost around $300 million.
This post has been updated.