Friday, February 17, 2017

Texas should decarcerate before heat litigation spikes costs

The decision by a federal district judge to allow Texas' prison heat litigation go to trial places state officials in a bind.  Grits has said for many years that the only way Texas will ever pay for heat mitigation beyond what it does now is if litigation succeeds. The state has been kicking the can down the road for many years whenever people complain or someone dies.

Now that a trial is imminent, however, there's a big risk taking the case to a jury. The cost of cooling prisons to the same levels required at county jails would be a budget buster - possibly as much as $100 million per facility, reported the Houston Press, though that figure sounds too high to this writer. Some units may need to close because they're too outdated to retrofit.

Will the state settle? I doubt it. But it might be the smart thing to do.

It should be mentioned that this is also an argument for implementing further decarceration reforms this session - perhaps reducing low-level drug penalties from a felony to a misdemeanor - since the state needn't pay to cool inmates whom they do not incarcerate. So even if the litigation isn't complete, that's something they can do to reduce baseline prison costs before the feds make them tack on an air conditioning bill  If federal courts order TDCJ to perform heat mitigation, it will be a little late to start thinking about reducing prisoner numbers.

8 comments:

Gadfly said...

A sub-angle is the idea of the state renting inmate space from a number of the newer, usually privatized, county jails built in the previous decade when "the prison industry" was big biz.

Anonymous said...

Which Texas prosecutors have the highest conviction rate that ends up in prison terms?

SO FAQ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David E said...

Just for perspective's sake: Are all federal prisons air conditioned?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@David E, from this source, "Virtually all federal prisons have air conditioning." Ditto for Texas county jails.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Clarification, a retired BOP employee emailed to say there are federal prisons without air conditioning, but "most are in northern climates and were built during the 1939-40 WPA projects."

rozmataz said...

Clearly cruel and unusual punishment.

SO FAQ said...

New Blogs Part 6 Updated February 19 2017
This is nothing new. Everyone knows many Texas prison locations have no heat or air conditioning. I have heard of storys on both ends of the spectrum. I heard in one place the toilets where frozen solid it was so cold. As Texans ; lets not be in denial about this and do what we always do and be honest, own up to our short comings and work till the problem is fix.
I am sure this info is suppressed on the internet or just something people do not want to talk about. I barely managed to find this story from 1997:
Year: 1997
Disability Discrimination: Prisoners
Monthly Law Journal Article: Accommodation of Wheelchair-Bound Prisoners, 2009 (10) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.
Monthly Law Journal Article: Prisoners with HIV/AIDS. Part 2, 2014 (3) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.
From: http://www.aele.org/law/Digests/jail29a.html
"Death row inmates at a new prison that has no air conditioning claimed that the heat"