ECTOR COUNTY - For those critical of the rights of prisoners, the nearly 200 people at the Ector County Correctional Center are not convicted criminals. They're citizens awaiting a hearing. And now some of their loved ones are concerned the blazing hot conditions inside could be violating their civil rights.
A woman who only wants to go by Nikki said she witnessed it first hand when she went to visited someone special at the facility inside the courthouse.
"I feel like its cruel and unusual punishment and I don't think that's right," she said. "It is hotter in that waiting room than it is outside, and I guarantee you that if you go speak to any of the family members that have been to any of those visitations, they'll tell you the exact same thing.
Nikki was just waiting there for a few hours, but she felt sorry for all the people who have to be there around the clock.
"They're innocent until proven guilty, and I just feel like my loved one will have their day in court, but until then, I feel like they should be treated like a human being," Nikki said.
Her concerns aren't exactly unfounded. Various reports claim at least 14 Texas inmates had died between 2007-2014 from heat exposure. In two cases, the deceased people's body temperatures were more than 105 degrees.
And according to a release in April by the University of Texas School of Law, The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is in violation of human and constitutional rights when their jails fail to maintain a safe climate for the people inhabiting them. It states, "these conditions have not only caused those deaths but pose a continuing threat to existing and future prisoners."
None of those incidents were at a local facility. Still, people like Nikki would rather push to have authorities take care of the perceived problem, than to risk having Ector County's detainees add to that list.
"We're treating animals better than we're treating our citizens! And if it is a Texas law that the temperature has to be a certain level, then why can Ector county not abide by that law.
NewsWest 9 spoke to the center's warden who did not want to be on camera. He said that the AC unit is tied with the courthouse AC. And that it is and has been working perfectly fine.
"So do they just keep it that hot just to punish them?" Nikki said.