Oversight Committee Democrats Press Committee Republicans to Prioritize the Safety of Inmates Across the Country

Aug 21, 2023
Press Release
Following Texas’ Refusal to Protect Inmates from Excessive and Dangerous Heat, Committee Democrats Urge Committee Republicans to Protect the Rights of the Incarcerated

Washington, D.C. (August 21, 2023)—Today, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, led Committee Democrats in sending a letter to Chairman James Comer urging Committee Republicans to join Committee Democrats in conducting a serious investigation into dangerous prison conditions across the country.  Following Committee Republicans’ trip to visit January 6 defendants and the recent reports of excessive heat in Texas jails, Committee Democrats are asking Committee Republicans to join them in a serious bipartisan investigation of the conditions of prisons and jails across the country and the measures being undertaken to ensure inmates and employees are safe, particularly in states most prone to extreme climate.


“Earlier this year, Committee Republicans arranged a visit to the D.C. jail in light of concerns about the conditions experienced by individuals held on charges related to the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol.  Similarly, Committee Democrats worked persistently to investigate and improve harsh prison conditions in the past two Congresses.  Given our shared interest in the rights of the incarcerated, I urge you and Committee Republicans to join Committee Democrats in our work to bring transparency and accountability to prisons across the country, sweltering in the heat of a brutal climate change summer,” wrote the Members.


In their letter, the Members called out Republicans for ignoring the serious hazards faced by inmates across the country while prioritizing the defendants detained in the D.C. jail for charges stemming from their role in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.  During the Republican-led visit to the D.C. jail, Members were able to observe that January 6 defendants have adequate air conditioning and heating and are housed in an area that is noticeably cleaner and larger in comparison to other facilities on the campus and where they have greater access to a wide range of accommodations, including electronic communication devices and access to outdoor recreational areas. 


“Our planet recently experienced the hottest month ever recorded, with Texas and other southern states measuring some of the hottest temperatures on Earth.  The capacity of prisons and jails to adequately prepare for and provide resources to meet the increasingly extreme weather caused by climate change deserves immediate attention from this Committee.  If Committee Republicans are serious about conducting oversight of the conditions within prisons and correctional facilities, and not just playing politics with a single facility, it is critical that you demand that facilities across the country hold inmates in a humane environment and not limit your interest to a single facility.” 


Committee Democrats have a longstanding commitment to examining the conditions of correctional facilities.  In 2021, Committee Democrats launched an investigation regarding conditions at Rikers Island in New York City, which have been plagued with violence and high rates of preventable deaths for years.  In addition to the conditions investigated on Rikers Island and the excessive heat plaguing Texas prisons, Committee Democrats also pointed to the allegations of sexual assault in juvenile facilities and instances of lack of inmate protections in jails across southern states. 


In addition to Ranking Member Raskin, the letter was signed by Vice Ranking Member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation; Rep. Katie Porter, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health Care and Financial Services; Rep. Robert Garcia, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs; Rep. Cori Bush, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs; Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi; Rep. Shontel Brown; Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost; Rep. Greg Casar; Rep. Jasmine Crockett; Rep. Jared Moskowitz; and Rep. Dan Goldman.  


Click here to read the letter.



118th Congress