August 2, 2022
Signatures: 695Next Goal: 1,000
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Why this petition matters

From: The Family and Friends of Incarcerated Loved Ones at Nottoway, Augusta, and Buckingham Correctional Centers

To: Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Secretary of Public Safety Robert Mosier, and Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke

Our incarcerated loved ones at Nottoway Correctional Center (NCC), Buckingham Correctional Center (BCC), and Augusta Correctional Center (ACC) are experiencing excessively hot and humid conditions. Even though the areas where prison staff work and frequent—eg. control booths, school areas, medical department, education department, and administration offices—are equipped with air conditioning (A/C), the areas where our incarcerated loved ones are housed are not. Consequently, our incarcerated loved ones at these facilities experience pain and suffering from excessive heat and humidity during the summer months, which is exacerbated by the current record heat wave. 

Uhuru Rowe, who  is incarcerated at Buckingham, says this about the extreme heat conditions felt there during the heatwave:

“What we are experiencing in here should be regarded as a public health crisis because this prison has poor ventilation, has no air conditioning, and because there are about 80 of us stuck inside the equivalent of a concrete tomb. All the excessive heat and humidity got trapped and amplified in here, making it feel like we are slowly being boiled to death. The only thing that fans succeed in doing is blowing around extremely hot air, the same as any microwave. This is torture and the sick and elderly prisoners are suffering the most. As global warming increases, these types of conditions will lead to mass deaths in these prisons during future heat waves if this is not remedied.”

Deliberately subjecting our incarcerated loved ones to extreme heat is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.


In regard to prison conditions, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled there is an Eighth Amendment violation if conditions amount to “the unnecessary and wonton infliction of pain and suffering.” (Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)). Unnecessary and wonton infliction of pain and suffering can be proven if there is an unquestioned and serious deprivation of “basic human needs” or of the “minimal civilized measures of life’s basic necessities” (Id. 347). The SCOTUS defines “basic human needs” as the right to “food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and reasonable safety” (Helling v. McKinney 509 U.S. 25, 32 (1993)). The Federal Court of Appeals has ruled that it is mandatory for prison officials to provide shelter that does not cause an incarcerated person’s degeneration or threatens their mental and physical health (Ramos v. Lamm 639 F.2d 559, 568 (10 th Cir. 1980)).



While the U.S. and other parts of the world, like Western Europe, are experiencing unprecedented deadly heat waves, our loved ones in housing units not equipped with A/C are suffering exponentially from excessively hot and humid conditions. These conditions often prompt complaints to prison officials by the families of people incarcerated at these facilities, and calls to the media which have resulted in media coverage. See:

No extra fans, ice machines or AC units purchased for Virginia prison

Officials say prisons built without AC providing fans, extra ice amid heat warnings

Inmate disputes VADOC’s claims about conditions at Buckingham Correctional

Despite numerous complaints, Va. official says conditions at state prisons were ‘adequate’ during heatwave

‘It’s inhumane’: Extreme temperatures, lack of AC worry families of inmates in Va. jails

When the temperature reaches 100 degrees, the heat index is always several degrees higher for our loved ones at these facilities due to the lack of A/C, poor ventilation, and concrete walls that trap heat and humidity, as incarcerated activist Uhuru Rowe references above. The cumulative impact of the above, on top of record high temperatures due to global warming, creates the kind of unbearable conditions prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.



Excessive heat alone has compelled at least one court to order the immediate closure of a correctional facility (Inmates of the Allegheny County Jail v. Wecht, 874 F.2d 147 (3 rd Cir. 1989). Therefore we demand the immediate closure of NCC, BCC, and ACC in order to prevent further harm to human health, unnecessary and wonton infliction of pain and suffering, and cruel and unusual punishment experienced by our loved ones incarcerated in these facilities during record high temperatures and deadly heat waves. We also demand that no new correctional facilities be built in their place.

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