Texas trans­fers from hot prison OK’d

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

A fed­eral judge who found that the op­pres­sive heat at a Texas prison threat­ened the health of many of the in­mates has agreed to the state’s plan to tem­po­rar­ily move about 1,000 pris­on­ers to cooler lock­ups.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Keith El­li­son ruled last month that the con­di­tions in­side the Wal­lace Pack Unit amount to cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ment, and or­dered that in­mates with cer­tain health con­di­tions or who are at least 65 years old be trans­ferred or housed else­where in the prison where tem­per­a­tures don’t ex­ceed 88 de­grees.

The heat in­dex in­side the prison about 65 miles north­west of Hous­ton some­times ex­ceeds 100 de­grees. Six in­mates filed the law­suit.

While El­li­son didn’t re­quire that the Pack Unit, built in 1983, be air con­di­tioned, state of­fi­cials said in­stalling tem­po­rary cool­ing would be cost-pro­hib­i­tive and couldn’t guar­an­tee a tem­per­a­ture that would com­ply with the judge’s man­date.

The Texas Depart­ment of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice pro­posed hous­ing the in­mates in cli­mate-con­trolled state prisons in Austin and Di­boll un­til the sum­mer heat sub­sides.

El­li­son en­dorsed the plan at a court hear­ing Tues­day, and state at­tor­neys said the trans­fers would take about three weeks and be­gin be­fore day­break to­day.

For Pack Unit in­mates con­sid­ered healthy and not sub­ject to trans­fer, El­li­son has or­dered man­agers to develop a heat wave pol­icy and in­stall screens for open win­dows to keep out in­sects.

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