The union that represents Texas' correctional officers is supporting lawsuits filed over the deaths of at least 14 convicts in sweltering state prisons, saying the lockups should be cooled to relieve unbearable and dangerous conditions, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Similar Civil-rights lawsuits are pending in several Southern states, where most state prisons are not air conditioned. The development could have an impact on a public debate in Texas over whether the time has come for some form of cooling systems.
Lance Lowry, president of a Huntsville-based local of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, said the union plans to join in pending litigation — including a possible request for federal court intervention over temperatures inside prisons that he said can reach 130 degrees on some days. Prison officials disputed the suggestion that summer conditions inside prisons are dangerous. Officials have estimated the cost of installing air-cooling units at more than $55 million.