Texas Air Conditions Pigs, Cooks Inmates
At least 14 Texas inmates have died due to heat exposure since 2007, according to a report first issued last year by the University of Texas School of Law Human Rights Clinic.
The conditions in the prisons have not changed since last year, at least at the Clemens Unit. But that it is a wider problem was confirmed by an April 3, 2015 story by the Huffington Post.
A former Clemens inmate has told us that the prison staff is required to report cell temperatures to the state. He explained that they take the temperatures at 2:00 in the morning, but when reported to the state, they show the readings were taken at 2:00 in the afternoon. So there’s no problem as far as TDCJ officially knows! (Whoops, a “paperwork” error = plausible deniability.) Who figured out this dodgy scam?
Last year’s report, “Deadly Heat in Texas Prisons,” found the conditions in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons violate the inmate’s human rights. This report expanded on the Clinic’s previous work by adding inmate testimony as well as inmate grievances, and it established that pleas to the TDCJ have been largely ignored. TDCJ does not have a policy in place to control the temperature in the prisoners’ cells, but has been constructing a $750,000 climate-controlled building for swine meant for inmate consumption, the report stated. Click here for a copy of this year’s report, appropriately entitled “Reckless Indifference: Deadly Heat in Texas Prisons.”
The reports state TDCJ’s policy is in stark contrast to that of the Texas Commission of Jail Standards, which regulates and monitors temperatures and other factors pertaining to county jails’ living quarters.
Ariel Dulitzky, the director of the clinic, released a statement last year that said officials at TDCJ have known inmates are dying from extreme heat since 1998. Dulitzky also said it has been more than two years since the Texas Civil Rights Project brought a wrongful death lawsuit against TDCJ for the death of an inmate due to organ failure resulting from exposure to extreme heat.
The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found extreme heat in prisons violate the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The Human Rights Clinic intends to submit its findings to the relevant United Nations bodies and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.
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