The New Incarceration Fight
BY DEVIN HEFLIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
The NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, has, over the year issued travel advisories for Black commuters to different states, changed Presidents, fought Trump’s travel ban and defended deportation declarations over those that have been in the country for seven years.
What hasn’t been brought to light is the long dark fight of the century’s old organization against the growing problem of asbestos in prisons, particularly in southern states. Asbestos has been linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma in inmates.
Prisons and jails that were built before the mid-1970s regulations most likely contain asbestos, unless they were adequately renovated to abate the asbestos. As with any building, the asbestos could be found in any number of places. One of the most important uses of asbestos in construction was in insulation because of its ability to resist the flow of heat. Insulation in walls, ceilings, around pipes, and around ducts and furnaces could all contain asbestos.
In an older prison, there may also be asbestos in the roofing materials, in ceiling tiles, in flooring tiles and adhesives, in spray-on coatings, in plaster, in cement, and in caulk and putty. Roofing on prisons is especially likely to contain asbestos because it was used most often in flat roofs rather than in shingles used on sloped roofs. There may even be asbestos in the paint, which often flakes off of walls and other surfaces.
Asbestos is one of several minerals (such as chrysotile) that readily separate into long flexible fibers, that cause asbestosis and have been implicated as causes of certain cancers, and that have been used especially formerly as fireproof insulating materials.
“We found that prisoners, especially low level offenders, were subjected to the most inhumane conditions.” Said Marvin Carroll, Seminole County Branch NAACP President.
Carroll and the Seminole County Branch have worked to bring about resolution for greater inmate living conditions.
The NAACP has identified the following statistics with regards to incarceration:
Incarceration Trends in America
The Environmental Protection Agency has banned some, but not all, asbestos products in the United States; 400 metric tons of the mineral were consumed in 2014, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Even brief, light exposures to asbestos can breed mesothelioma, diagnosed in about 2,700 people each year in the United States. Most get it in the lining of the lung, or pleura.
What's worse is when workers are covered in dust during asbestos-removal jobs — and possibly condemned to mesothelioma, lung cancer or the lung disease asbestosis years later — because their bosses cut corners on protections to save money.
Florida Asbestos Laws
Florida lawmakers aimed to reduce asbestos lawsuits by adopting the Asbestos and Silica Compensation Fairness Act in 2005. The law requires asbestos plaintiffs to have better evidence, including that of asbestos exposure, at the time the lawsuit is filed.
Since 2006, the Orange County Branch NAACP has worked to combat this growing problem of growing cancers in Florida prisons. The branch has worked to organize at Coleman Federal Prison and has passed fourteen resolutions related to prison reform in the past eleven years.
“Just because someone commits a crime, or is unlawfully charged with a crime doesn’t dehumanize them.” Beverlye Neal, Orange County Branch NAACP President said.