Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Federal judge orders Pack Unit to supply un-contaminated water

This news could bump the Pack Unit up on the list of the most likely next TDCJ units the Legislature may consider closing. From the Houston Chronicle (June 21):
A federal judge in Houston has ordered the Texas prison system to provide safe drinking water to inmates at the Pack Unit in Navasota, saying the unit's arsenic-laden well water "violates contemporary standards of decency."

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison said the Wallace Pack Unit, a low security facility in Grimes County that holds elderly and sick inmates, has 15 days to replace its water supply.

The emergency motion to replace the drinking water was filed by a group of inmates suing the state on the grounds that the lack of air conditioning during the hot summer months is a form of "cruel and unusual punishment."

The Pack Unit houses mostly elderly, ill and disabled inmates who may take medications that make them especially vulnerable to heat-related illness.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice plans to appeal the ruling, according to a spokesman.
TDCJ before now had refused to pay to extend a water line from the city of Navasota to the Pack unit, preferring to use well water they knew was contaminated because of the lower cost. So good for Judge Ellison. That kind of cynical cost-benefit analysis devaluing inmates' lives and health shouldn't be condoned.

The next cost-benefit judgment: Does it make more financial sense to pay to extend a water line from the city to the prison, or is there sufficient capacity within TDCJ to move those inmates elsewhere and shutter it? And what can be done, one wonders, in 15 days? The judge's ruling stemmed from a subsidiary claim in ongoing litigation over excessive heat in the un-air conditioned unit in Grimes County, just west of Huntsville.

MORE: From the Courthouse News Service.


Soronel Haetir said...

What could be done in 15 days is to switch to using trucks in any interim period. I would think if the local water is arsenic laden then to even keep using the existing in-flow plumbing would also be a violation as by now those pipes have to have picked up a fair amount of contamination.

The Comedian said...

The Jester IV psych unit in Richmond has a roof that leaks like a sieve. Every time it rains, the water comes in, even through the light fixtures. I've heard that part of the roof is near collapse. Oh, guess what unit they're planning to move offenders from nearby units into in case of a hurricane? Yep, Jester IV. When that roof collapses, just remember you heard it here first. TDC says it's no biggie. Now shut up and eat your VitaPro!

Anonymous said...

One cannot help but be appalled by our government when it wants to appeal an order directing it to provide clean drinking water to citizens in its care.

Can you get any more heartless?

Anonymous said...

The govt. always appeals -- they don't pay for it and it gives them months to do nothing about it. Providing clean water would probably cost the taxpayers much less than the appeal.

City gov't, county gov't. or state -- they all appeal when they lose. The more corrupt, the more they appeal. They can always afford it and the longer it takes the better!

Everyone should start sending cases of water to the prisoners. Let the ones appealing the decision drink the well water.

He's Innocent said...

My spouse spent about 15 months at Pack. He uses a CPAP machine (sleep apnea for those who do not know). All medical instructions say use distilled water for these machines, and clean them weekly with bleach solution.

He was denied both. The entire time he was there.

When he released, Pack being his last unit, I was horrified at the crust inside the CPAP water tank. I filmed all of that as we chiseled it out of there, and I've got samples and the tank itself stashed. I'm waiting for someone to win a suit against TDCJ for harm to their health.

We'll be 2nd in line to file.

Soronel Haetir said...

You are already aware of the basis for your claim, time is probably running out right now if it has not already.