Are inmates in danger of heat-related illnesses in Texas? The answer is an overwhelming yes.
U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison of Houston recently ordered a geriatric prison in Texas, Wallace Pack Unit south of Navasota, to help inmates overcome extreme heat and rising summer temperatures. In his ruling, he slammed the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for continuous violations of inmates’ Eighth Amendment rights (“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted) by subjecting inmates to heat indexes that regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the last 20 years, at least 23 men have died and countless more have suffered from heat-related conditions in Texas prisons such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, yet prisons have been sluggish in implementing safeguards.
Our Prisons Need Upgrades
Texas has the largest state-run prison system in the country. There are currently 106 prisons in the state. Of those, 28 have air conditioning in all housing areas. The rest often only have A/C for staff, if they have it at all.
Ellison’s ruling also stated that indifference was endemic to all aspects of handling extreme heat at the prison in question, from refusal to consider A/C to using cooling units that could make humidity worse, increasing the heat index inside the prison.
The Pack Unit was also ordered by the court last year to provide safe drinking water for inmates after tests revealed two-to-four times the standard permitted level of arsenic.
The Goolsby Law Firm provides criminal defense services to clients throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, including Allen, Arlington, Carrollton, Denton, Irving, McKinney and Plano.