What’s more, the federal court said inmates don’t need to show that hot temperatures caused death or serious injuries to prove that prison conditions are unconstitutional.Regarding possible additional measures, "Wednesday’s appeals court decision said Louisiana prisons could avoid heat-related cruel and unusual punishment by cooling common areas and supplying personal ice containers and ample cold water, as well as by providing many of the solutions used in Texas prisons."
“They need only show that there is a substantial risk of serious harm,” [Judge Edith] Jones wrote.
The ruling by the 5th Circuit, which also has jurisdiction over Texas, could prove important for similar legal challenges in the Lone Star State — particularly a lawsuit scheduled to go to trial in February that claims at least 12 Texas prisoners have died from heat stroke since 2011, while hundreds of others experienced heat-related illnesses.
One difference between the Texas and Louisiana litigation is that here the suit was joined by prison guards complaining of extremist working conditions. One wonders, since the 5th Circuit declined to combine the cases, if the focus on employment conditions as opposed to incarceration conditions might provide an additional foothold. Regardless, TDCJ can now see the bare minimum improvements needed to mitigate overheated prisons; they shouldn't wait for a court order before beginning to deploy them.
See related Grits posts:
- Feds won't combine heat litigation cases
- Do sweltering Texas prisons violate international human rights standards?
- Litigation heating up over summertime prison conditions
- Hot in Louisiana: Federal suit may set precedent for Texas
- Report: 'Deadly heat in Texas prisons'
- Union rep: TDCJ focuses on pigs' comfort over staff, inmates
- Climate-controlled hogs' barn spurred union participation in prisoner heat suit
- TDCJ guard union joins inmate litigation over excessive heat
- Saving TDCJ's bacon: Cool pigs vs. overheated inmates
- TDCJ's pigs to get air conditioning but not prisoners
- More litigation over heat in Texas prisons now that 5th Circuit cleared the way
- 5th Circuit: Inmates can sue TDCJ over excessive heat
- NY Times: Heat a death sentence for ten Texas prisoners last summer
- More litigation over summer heat in Texas prisons: Wrongful death suit filed
- Appellate judge: 'These guys are sitting in and oven ... and no one gives a darn'
- Lack of AC chilling for TDCJ staffing efforts