The Federal Correctional Institution in Mendota, near Fresno, California, houses about 880 prisoners. A broken air conditioning system during a recent heat wave led to oppressive temperatures that drove prisoners to wrap their heads in damp towels and encouraged toxic mold growth, potentially putting inmates and staff at deadly risk.

Prison staff said that heating and cooling units were offline for at least six months. This led to a situation in July when prisoners were locked indoors with temperatures exceeding 90°F with nothing but general house fans to circulate the hot air. Meanwhile, prison staff dealt with toxic black mold growing in the complex’s unventilated control room, causing at least four employees to become sick.

The situation has legal ramifications as well. Mendota Prison is now under investigation by the Senate Committee of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. In addition, the House Judiciary Committee and the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General have also raised concerns. Although there is no national standard for temperatures in prisons, there is a growing judicial consensus that extreme temperatures constitute inhumane treatment of prisoners. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also seen more complaints filed over mold in the penal system, but there are no federal regulations for mold either.

The Power Breezer, from Breezer Mobile Cooling, can be used to help cool prisons without A/C. This portable cooling solution cools indoor and partially covered outdoor spaces, resulting in safer and healthier conditions for prisoners and staff alike. To learn more about how Breezer Mobile Cooling can help prisons across the country improve conditions, avoid litigation and potentially save lives, visit