Texas Will Put Air Conditioning in Hot Prison

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The state of Texas will install air conditioning in a notoriously hot prison after reaching a settlement with inmates in a federal class action lawsuit, reports the Texas Tribune. The air conditioning will go into the housing areas of the Wallace Pack Unit, where temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees in the summer. Inmates argued that allowing prison temperatures to rise above 88 degrees amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. “It’s a big day for the inmates who suffered through those summers at the Pack Unit,” said Jeff Edwards, attorney for the prisoners. “They’re not going to be in fear of dying from heat stroke anymore.”

The agreement must be approved in federal court. U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison said he is optimistic it will go forward. Texas has more than 100 prisons, and almost 75 percent of them don’t have air conditioning in the areas where inmates live. Nearly two dozen inmates have died from heat stroke in Texas prisons in the last two decades. In 2014, inmates at the Pack Unit sued, arguing heat-sensitive inmates, such as those with heart conditions or who are on certain medications, should be protected from extreme temperatures. In July, Ellison issued a scathing, temporary ruling deeming the hot prison conditions cruel and unusual and ordering the state to place medically vulnerable inmates into air conditioning. This prompted a large shakeup of inmates, with the department opting to move more than 1,000 vulnerable prisoners into 11 different air-conditioned units instead of installing air conditioning at the Pack Unit. (In Louisiana, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled last week that the state is not required to cool the Angola prison to 88 degrees or less, the Advocate reports.)

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