PHOTOS: Beating the heat in the Richmond City Jail

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Photos by Richard Caputo

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Hot or not, you probably don't want to be at the Richmond City Jail. But this summer, the heat is taking it's tool on the inmates and employees forcing the sheriff to take new precautions.

Imagine being in doors with no air conditioning every day this summer. Temperatures have been in the mid 90's all day. At the City Jail, on certain floors, the temperatures can rise well past 100 degrees.

Even on a sweltering day, it might just be hotter inside the Richmond City Jail than out.

"It depends on where you are in the building. in some areas it's 10 to 15 degrees hotter than it is on the outside," said Sheriff C.T. Woody.

The sheriff says this is the hottest summer he's seen since taking over the City Jail in 2006.

This year he's added 25 giant barrel fans. More have been ordered and are on the way. The city re-wired the building to handle the extra electrical load. Woody's added two giant ice machines to the kitchen. And water jugs have been added to all the common areas.

"It be so hot up in here sometimes where as though we've got to take 5 or 6 showers a day," said inmate Clifton Williams. "Sometimes we have to sit 15 or 20 feet off the fan just to try to keep cool."

Some of the deputies even have thermal laser thermometers and they walk around and check the temperature to make sure it doesn't get unbearably hot.

The kitchen came in at 95 degrees and the laundromat was up to 105 degrees. These are the two notoriously hot areas of the jail where inmates and guards both work.

This morning, the common areas clocked in around 91 degrees.  The sheriff says, summers like this only build his case that a new jail is desperately needed.

"I still believe that we will get a new building," Woody said. "The bricks and mortar... because the living conditions are inhumane for all of us not just the one who live here, but for the ones that work here."

The current jail is more the an 50 years old and holds 1,400 inmates. It was built to house 850.

The city plans to break ground on a new City Jail in the fall of 2011.

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