Extreme heat prevention and response

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) work together to ensure the safety and wellness of staff, the incarcerated population and visitors. The department follows a statewide Heat Illness Prevention Plan, and each of our 33 prisons creates a tailored operational response whenever excessive heat conditions exist.  

Each prison has a Heat Plan Coordinator, and they monitor heat-related conditions, inside and outside temperatures, number of incarcerated patients with a heat-related illness and their symptoms, and other information. This information is provided to the prison’s leadership for appropriate action and response.  

All housing units in CDCR’s 33 prisons provide some cooling relief from heat, most often in the form of evaporative coolers and fans. Additionally, nursing staff will conduct rounds in the housing units and all staff are advised to keep visual contact with the incarcerated population for any signs of heat exposure.  

During extreme heat situations, some actions that may be taken include:  

  • Increased access to water stations, fans, portable cooling units and ice.  
  • Opening housing unit cell windows, if available.  
  • Utilizing alternative housing space, such as gymnasiums or chapels, if needed. 
  • Additional access to showers.  
  • Additional access to cooling stations in air-conditioned areas, such as clinics and mental health spaces.  
  • Considering conducting yard at night in order to limit daytime exposure to extreme heat, holding additional dayroom program opportunities and conducting recreational programs in a gymnasium.

Heat Contingency Plans:  

Stage I: When outdoor temperatures exceed 90 degrees

  • Incarcerated people identified as vulnerable to heat stress are moved indoors for recreation, to areas such as gyms, dayrooms and classrooms. Their time outdoors is limited to 30 minutes for traveling to classes, programs and job assignments but is not to include outdoor recreation.

Stage II: When indoor temperatures exceed 90 degrees   

  • Outside temperatures are monitored each hour.  
  • Vulnerable incarcerated people are moved to air-conditioned spaces, such as offices and classrooms; fans are used to provide additional cooling capacity; and they are given more access to more frequent showers, bottled water and ice.  
  • Nursing staff who are trained to recognize heat-related illnesses tour housing units more frequently to monitor the health of incarcerated people.  
  • Liquids with electrolytes are provided to incarcerated people if directed by the medical staff.

Stage III: When indoor temperatures exceed 95 degrees    

  • All of the relief measures listed above are continued. 
  • Nursing staff check on each incarcerated person at least every two hours to prevent heat-related illnesses.   

Contact: OPEC Press Office OPEC@cdcr.ca.gov