Suit Claims Lack of Prison Air Conditioning Is Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Posted Jul 31, 2012 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Twelve inmates in Texas have died of heat-related causes since 2007, spurring a lawsuit and a debate over the lack of air conditioning in prisons.
Critics claim the heat amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, the New York Times reports. The Texas Civil Rights Project has already filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of one inmate’s family and plans to file more.
Ten inmates died during a two month period last year. All died of hyperthermia, caused when the body temperature exceeds 105 degrees, the story says. The inmates had other risk factors contributing to their deaths, including hypertension, obesity and heart disease. Some took diuretics or medication making it difficult for the body to regulate heat.
Prison officials say they tried to help the inmates fight the heat with ice and extra water.
On Monday, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on behalf of an inmate who survived heat index temperatures of 130, saying extreme heat can be a constitutional violation, the Texas Tribune reports. The Texas Civil Rights Project also filed that suit. According to How Appealing, the ruling (PDF) was nonprecedential.