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Prisoner tempers flare in summer heat

DURHAM -- When it gets as hot as it's been this week, tempers can flare. And that's something you especially don't want to happen inside state prisons. About half of the prisons in the Raleigh-Durham area don't have air conditioning. Doing hard time is harder in this heat. Sixty-four-year-old Lester Carpenter is serving the rest of his life sentence for murder in a non-air conditioned dorm at the state's Durham Correctional Center. Carpenter said, "The last three or four nights I've probably slept about three or four hours." And most sleep with half their clothes off to keep cool. Extra fans help too, but it's still about 90-degrees in the cells. It's about 75 degrees inside the other dorms with air conditioning. Those inmates sleep with blankets. Inmate Jerry Henderson said, "Compared to outside it's like paradise in here." Paradise in prison. When you have air conditioning on a triple digit day the heat can work up more than a sweat. Henderson said, "It's really unbearable sometimes. Tempers flare, people get angry." Superintendent David Cates said, "When the heat is up, tempers may flare, people do get agitated and that's something we worry about and are trained for and are told to intervene quickly when they see these types of things." The superintendent also limits the time inmates work outside to the early morning hours and offers frequent water breaks. There is a benefit to working in this heat. An inmate gets a day taken off his sentence for everyday they work outside when the heat index is 95 degrees or higher.

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