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Friday, July 11, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Burning Up in a Texas Prison

     Claiming that even the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is air conditioned, prisoners in Texas have filed a lawsuit over soaring temperatures in state prisons they say have killed at least 12 prisoners in the last three years. The suit, filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project and the University of Texas School of Law Civil Rights clinic on behalf of the prisoners, isn't seeking monetary damages. It seeks cooler temperatures for the prisoners. Eighty-eight degrees to be exact.

     The lawsuit, broadly concerned about the lack of air conditioning across state facilities, centers on a facility in Navasota, Texas known as the Wallace Park Unit. Located about 70 miles northwest of Houston, the facility houses about 1,400 men. As of January 2014, 114 men over the age of 70 were housed there. They have no air conditioning, and the windows that do not open provide little relief,  the suit claims, leading to temperatures inside that often exceed those outside. And outside it's hot.

     The suit  cites internal data from The Texas Department of Criminal Justice that found that over the past three years the mercury topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the complain,"Stainless steel tables in the inmate dormitories become so hot to the touch prisoners have to lay towels down on the table to rest their elbows while sitting."

     In addition to the older inmates, the complaint said a number of men have various underlying medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable to heat stroke…The lawsuit alleges some 20 deaths since 1998 and details names, ages and internal body temperatures of victims, including cases where the body temperature recorded was well over 100 degrees. One man, 45-year-old Rodney Adams, died one day after his arrival. His internal temperature registered 109.9.

     There is air conditioning in some parts of the facility. The law library, education building and visitation center all are equipped with air conditioning…but the inmates are rarely allowed in these areas. The complaint says that the warden's office and other administrative buildings have air conditioning…

Emma Lacy-Bordeaux, "Texas Inmates Sue Over Lack of Air Conditioning," CNN, June 20, 2014

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