A study conducted by University of Texas law students concludes that death row inmates in the state are living in cruel conditions that include poor health care, no physical contact with loved ones, and little exposure to natural light and physical activity, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The UT Law School’s Human Rights Clinic conducted questionnaire interviews with former death row inmates who recalled confinement to an 8-by-12-foot cell for all but an hour or two a day. With conviction appeals crawling through the legal system, many inmates are subjected to this treatment for decades.
The clinic’s 48-page report, “Designed to Break You: Human Rights Violations on Texas’ Death Rows,” concludes that solitary confinement — which state law requires for capital murder convictions — is unnecessary except in extreme cases when the inmate poses a threat to general population inmates. Even then, the report suggests, solitary confinement should be capped at 15 days and be abolished altogether for inmates who suffer from mental or intellectual disabilities. Texas’ practices “fall woefully behind international standards for confinement,” the report says. A spokesman responded that the state corrections agency “will continue to ensure it fulfills its mission of public safety and house death row offenders appropriately.”