Lawsuits Demand Texas Air-Condition Prisons

Inmates died from heat-related conditions
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2012 1:54 PM CDT
Lawsuits Demand Texas Air-Condition Prisons
An inmate checks the time as he watches the sun set at a minimum-security facility near Houston, Texas.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Imagine being trapped in a small room without air-conditioning in 100-degree heat for days at a time. That's the reality most Texas prisoners face, and now two lawsuits are taking the state to task for it. One was filed yesterday by the wife of one of the four inmates who died of heat stroke or hyperthermia last year, the New York Times reports. (Advocates for inmates' rights think the real toll is at least twice that.) The 345-pound man arrived at the hospital with an internal body temperature of 109.4 degrees.

"For this to happen to any human being is beyond my belief," his son said. "There's pets in pounds that have better conditions." An appeal is also pending in a 2008 suit alleging "Death Valley-like conditions" at a South Texas prison, with the heat index topping 126 degrees for 10 days. Only 21 of the state's 111 prisons are fully air-conditioned, but the prison agency says it takes steps to keep inmates cool, like using air blowers and allowing them to wear shorts. (Read more Texas stories.)

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