Photo/IllutrationAn inmate fell unconscious with heatstroke at Kyoto Detention House in July. (Takeshiro Tokunaga)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--Prolonged extreme summer heat has killed one prisoner and is threatening the lives of others due to a chronic lack of air conditioning at many correctional institutions.

A forty-something convict died of severe heatstroke at Nagoya Prison on July 24 after being carried to a hospital, while a man in his 60s detained at Kyoto Detention House was left unconscious with heatstroke on July 19.

The two were hit by heatstroke while staying in solitary cells with no air conditioners or electric fans.

Kyoto Detention House was built in 1961, and problems concerning power sources and voltage levels make it difficult to install air conditioners and electric fans.

Air conditioners have been set up only in cells for sick persons and women. Community cells are equipped with electric fans, but the devices are not available in solitary cells.

Lawyer Ryota Ishigawa visited the detention house on July 25 for an on-site inspection with a colleague at the Kyoto Bar Association.

“The conditions are too bad to live a healthy life,” he said. “Putting inmates under such terrible conditions is beyond the objective of detention.”

Ishigawa said the temperatures in cells were 32 to 35 degrees at 10:30 a.m. He said a solitary cell on the top floor was not sufficiently ventilated and that he could feel heat even through tatami mats when he lay on them.

A man in his 70s detained in a six-person cell explained his conditions during an Asahi Shimbun interview.

“The room is poorly ventilated, and walls are hotter than the body temperature,” he said. “We are always naked from the waist up, wearing only short trousers.”

The man said the temperature does not fall even at night.

“We are given ice packs before going to bed, but they melt in two hours or so. It is difficult to go to sleep, and many of us fan ourselves with distributed ‘uchiwa’ fans.”

The man added that one roommate fell ill due to the sweltering heat this summer and was transferred to the sickroom.

Detention house officials said 1 liter of tea is distributed per three meals per person and 500 milliliters of sports drinks is provided daily.

After the man in his 60s suffered serious heatstroke, the detention house also began distributing special tablets at each meal so inmates can ingest salt.

According to the Justice Ministry’s Correction Bureau, only 11 percent of the nation’s 292 correctional institutions, including prisons and detention houses, are equipped with air conditioning systems for all rooms.

The bureau in May sent notifications to correctional institutions to urge them to take thorough measures against heatstroke.

Facility operators have distributed water more frequently, suspended physical activity programs and had inmates wear straw hats when they work outdoors.