Thank God for U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison, who has threatened to order air conditioning, and still may do so! Twenty-two people have died in Texas prisons from hyperthermia, or elevated body temperature, from heat exposure since 1998. Source: Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Excerpts from the Article:
Relief State officials on Thursday are set to roll out their plan for providing cool living quarters for medically vulnerable inmates at the geriatric facility after a federal judge found the swampy indoor conditions amounted to “cruel and unusual punishment.”may be in sight for hundreds of heat-sensitive inmates at the Pack Unit northwest of Houston.
While U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison has not ordered the state to install air conditioning, his emergency injunction on July 19 called for cooled beds for 475 inmates who take medication or have diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions that make it hard for their bodies to fight the heat.
The ruling marked a turning point in the federal civil rights lawsuit, which has drawn national attention to the rights of people who lack the authority to adjust the thermostat and the freedom to leave the premises.
Witnesses testified that inmates and guards alike had fainted from indoor temperatures that sometimes surpass 100 degrees. One inmate testified about heat-induced vomiting and another recalled a headache that felt like an ice pick to the brain.
Ellison ruled that officials at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice obstructed remedies and showed “deliberate indifference” to inmate suffering. He gave them until Aug. 8 to implement the plan, a draft of which is expected to be submitted to the court Thursday.
About 80 percent of Texas prison inmates are assigned to living units without air conditioning, even during heat waves, according to Jason Clark, a spokesman for TDCJ. Since 1977, county jails across Texas have required that indoor temperature be kept between 65 and 85 degrees. All but seven of the 122 federal facilities run by the Bureau of Prisons offer air conditioning, an official said. Even the federal detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which drew attention for the treatment of high-profile international prisoners, has cooling units.
Twenty-two people have died in Texas prisons from hyperthermia, or elevated body temperature, from heat exposure since 1998. Source: Texas Department of Criminal Justice.