University of South Florida

College of Behavioral and Community Sciences


Students experience Florida's unforgiving heat in model prison cell

Students look inside the model prison cell

Students look inside the mock prison cell.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon, 75% of prisons in Florida don't have air conditioning. Department of Criminology Assistant Professor of Instruction Colby Valentine, PhD, in her efforts to go above and beyond for her students, decided to give an immersive lesson about the plight of Florida's incarcerated individuals – without sending her students to prison.

student taking photo of flyer

A student takes a photo of a flyer with a Florida Cares Charity representative.

Valentine worked with The Florida Cares Charity to bring the organization's model prison cell to the USF Tampa campus. In interactive exhibit called “Beat The Heat,” students could spend three minutes inside the cell to experience what Florida inmates feel during the hot summer months. 

As temperatures inside the model prison cell climbed to 97 degrees with no airflow, students who visited the exhibit described it as "eye-opening" and "overwhelming." For some, the experience hit close to home. Lenaysha Graham, a criminology student, got to see first hand what her father experienced while he was incarcerated for 13 years in Florida.

faculty and students inside the model prison cell

Faculty and students stand inside the cell.

Valentine organized this event as part of her Prison Experience and Reentry course, which provides students with a first-hand look at the incarceration experience as well as the reentry process. The class provides students with the knowledge to understand the impact of incarceration on those with lived experiences and how reentry affects more than those sent to prison.

Family members of incarcerated individuals and advocates also attended the event. Many expressed their excitement to see the next generation being compelled to advocate for improved conditions.

The prison cell is completely outfitted with items purchased from same company the Department of Corrections purchases from – all the way down to the shoes and uniforms. The exhibit tours the state of Florida and often hosts events during the hottest months, between May and September.

Return to article listing

About College of Behavioral & Community Sciences News

The Mission of the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences (CBCS) is to advance knowledge through interdisciplinary teaching, research, and service that improves the capacity of individuals, families, and diverse communities to promote productive, satisfying, healthy, and safe lives across the lifespan. CBCS envisions the college as a globally recognized leader that creates innovative solutions to complex conditions that affect the behavior and well-being of individuals, families, and diverse communities.