Around the country, prisons are being shut down due to health risks. Taxpayers are forced to pay for the costs of building new jails to replace the old ones. In Los Angeles (LA) County, the board of supervisors are planning to build two new jails at a cost of 2 billion dollars. This is a terrible idea because prisons are infamous for polluting the local area in which they are built. If the county moves forward with this jail plan, it would affect the communities and we, the taxpayers, will be left to pay for the county’s actions monetarily and with our health.
Since 1991, the Alabama Department of Corrections has been ignoring complaints of waste water pollution from its prison. The Alabama Department of Corrections is pumping high levels of toxic ammonia, fecal coliform, viruses, and parasites into the local rivers and streams. When the raw sewage goes into the the water, the rivers, and the streams – it sucks up all of the dissolved oxygen which aids decomposition. Wildlife that depends on the American River to live is dying due to the pollution. Since the 2000s, eight of California’s state prisons has been fined for polluting. The Folsom Stae Prison located here in California was fined $700,000 for 700,000 gallon of sewage spilled into the American River (in-text citation). A different water pollution source from the Old Folsom prison is toxic waste from all the old scrap metal area, drum storage area, industrial manufacturing area, and the firing range. The prisons are polluting the water in the area where the prison is located and are affecting the local areas and the environment.
Prisoners located in Antelope Valley here in California have gotten sick with “Valley Fever”. Valley Fever is the common name for coccidioidomycosis, which is a serious fungal disease of the lungs and other tissues, endemic in the warmer, arid regions of America. The soil around Lancaster, where they are planning on building a new women’s prison, has tested positive for Valley Fever. According to Antje Lauer, a soil microbiologist and Ramon Guevara an epidemiologist, with the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health said, “The highest rate of infection is in the Antelope Valley, a rapidly developing outpost of the county that adjoins the southern edge of the San Joaquin Valley. It would be a great tragedy to allow the continuation of this project to build a jail for women and have their family who would visit them in a toxic environment that guarantees certain death for vulnerable people” (Zuniga). Since the past decade, the number of cases there has been increased over five hundred and forty-five per cent. We the tax payer will be funding a jail that can cause long term illness and even death to prisoners and people who work at a prison unless we take action and stop the building of the women prison.
It would be helpful if the Environmental Impact Study address gives a in depth of the environmental conditions that impacted the health of those who would be incarcerated in jails, their families and children and people that are employed there including: Air quality, Hazardous materials, Valley fever,Deteriorating Foundation and Moldy Walls and Potential lack of water / adjudication. Dustin McDaniel, executive director of Law Center, has said the building of prisons on top of enviromental waste sites can often turn into long term health problems and even death to prisoners who are coerced into living in industrial waste. According to Panagioti Tsolkas, who coordinates Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), “It’s encouraging to see the EPA attempting to increase the effectiveness of protecting vulnerable communities that have been overburdened by industrial pollution, but a significant component is missing when impacts on millions of prisoners and their families are ignored.” All jails have done is release more pollution into the environment and expose prisoners to health problems and potentially death. The EPA should investigate the areas surrounding prisons, not just the immediate prison site. The EPA should also conduct studies on prisoners to test their health before and after release to see if the prison has good conditions or if it should be shut down. Even though buildings may be up to code, prisons might not be safe because of their indoor conditions.
Dannenberg, John. “Prison drinking water and waste water pollution threaten environmental safety nationwide.” Prison legal news.(2007):n.pag.Web. 31 Sep. 2015.
Khan, Natasha. “Ask EPA to consider pollutions effect on prisoners.” Public Source. (2015):n.pag.Web. 15 July. 2015
Zuniga, Diana. Letter to Mathew Diaz. September 15, 2014. CURB and the Los Angeles No More Jails Coalition